Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday staked a claim to Israeli-controlled east Jerusalem, announcing that his government quietly helped fund the renovation of 14 schools in what the Palestinians hope will be their capital.
The fate of Jerusalem is one of the most difficult issues Israelis and Palestinians would have to try to resolve in a peace deal.
Peace talks, launched in September, have run aground over Israeli settlement construction and aren't even close to addressing the conflicting claims to Jerusalem. But President Barack Obama hopes to broker an agreement by next September, meaning the sides will be forced to make some difficult decisions if they stick to his timeline.
Tuesday's announcement about the school renovations marked his boldest public foray into east Jerusalem, though Fayyad's government is believed to have contributed quietly to other projects in the city.
Renovating the schools "is an important achievement along our path toward freedom and independence," Fayyad said during a ceremony at the West Bank school. "The Palestinian state will be established in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its heart."