Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday raised questions about Israel's control of Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, the first time he has openly signaled readiness to share control of the city with the Palestinians.

Control of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of the city, including east Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as its capital. The Palestinians want the eastern sector for the capital of a future independent state.

In a speech, Olmert noted that Israel has built a series of thriving Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, but signaled that Israel's control of Arab areas is not necessary. "Was it necessary to also join the Shuafat refugee camp, Sawakra, Walaje and other villages and define them as part of Jerusalem?" he asked. "With that, I must confess it is possible to ask legitimate questions."