JERUSALEM — Two senior Israeli politicians, including the prime minister's closest ally, talked openly yesterday about dividing Jerusalem, signaling a possible shift in Israeli opinion about one of the Middle East's most contentious issues.
The dispute over Jerusalem has derailed negotiations in the past, and the latest comments come at a time when Israeli and Palestinian Arab teams are trying to agree on principles guiding future peace talks.
The ideas raised by Vice Premier Haim Ramon still fall far short of Palestinian demands to establish their capital in all of the city's eastern sector, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Mideast War.
Mr. Olmert's closest ally, Mr. Ramon, raised the idea of a possible division of Jerusalem in interviews on the two main radio stations.
Later in the day, Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the hard-line Israel Beitenu Party, a member of Mr. Olmert's coalition, told a news conference he is ready to hand over some Arab neighborhoods of the city.
The proposals of Messrs. Ramon and Lieberman would fall far short of a Palestinian Arab demand to set up their future capital in all of the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city. The eastern part contains the Old City, home to major Jewish, Muslim, and Christian shrines.
Still, the public debate was remarkable. Mr. Ramon suggested that there's been a shift in the Israeli consensus, noting that the three main parties in Mr. Olmert's coalition all favor a division, and disagree only about where the line should be drawn.