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Israel abuzz with Obama Plan rumors

US solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reportedly include UN administration of Jerusalem's holy sites and no right of return for Palestinian refugees.

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Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, speaking Wednesday on a popular Israel Radio program, also indicated that any plan to split the holy city was a non-starter because Israel would not agree to divide its capital. On Thursday Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day, marking 42 years of what it considers to be reunification of Jerusalem – achieved during the 1967 Six-Day War – and Palestinians consider to be an occupation.

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"Everyone who knows this city knows that it's not practical, it's not possible ... and it won't happen," Mr. Barkat said. "It's what's called in English, 'wishful thinking.'

"Jerusalem needs to stay united and whole – there's no other way."

Palestinians preoccupied with internal divides

Palestinians have declined to comment officially on the reported details of the plan. The Palestinian political scene remained enmeshed in internal complications Wednesday after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, inaugurated a new government cabinet headed by Salam Fayyad as prime minister. Hamas, as well as a mass of Fatah members, were unhappy with the decision. The Fatah parliamentary faction was meeting late Wednesday to discuss whether it might boycott the new government.

Mr. Obama is due to meet with Palestinian President Abbas, as well as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak next week – a prelude to his trip to the Middle East, during which he is scheduled to address the Muslim world from Cairo on June 4.

Leading up to the trip, moderate Arab states including Egypt and Jordan have been pushing the Saudi-led 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, under which Arab countries would normalize relations with Israel if Israel recognized a Palestinian state.

Obama, whose plan is reportedly similar to the Arab initiative, has repeatedly endoresed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – most recently in his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office on Monday. Mr. Netanyahu, who returned to Israel on Wednesday, has so far been unwilling to support such a formula, saying instead that he wanted Palestinians to govern themselves.

But upon landing at the Tel Aviv airport, he told reporters, "I said I was ready to immediately open peace talks with the Palestinians, by the way, with the Syrians as well, of course, without preconditions."