Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his appearance before Congress.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied on Friday a report in an Israeli tabloid which claimed that the premier had agreed in principle to an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines.
“The prime minister never agreed to a return to the ’67 lines, a partition of Jerusalem, and recognition of the right of return,” the aide said. “His position on these issues remains unchanged.”
According to the popular circulation daily Yediot Aharonot
, Netanyahu considered an agreement with the Palestinians that would have uprooted West Bank settlements and recognized Palestinian claims in Jerusalem.
The document was the result of secret talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority during Netanyahu’s previous term, from 2009-2013, the daily reported.
In the document considered by Netanyahu’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s confidant Hussein Agha, Israel would agree to negotiate a peace deal on the basis of the 1967 borders, with land swaps and terms that would allow Israelis living in the West Bank to choose whether to remain under Palestinian rule.
The prime minister’s office told Yediot
that the document was a draft initiated by American mediators and subject to vetoes of the negotiating parties. Israel Radio quoted officials as saying that Netanyahu ultimately rejected the terms.
“The sides agree that Palestine will be an independent and sovereign state in a sustainable territory which will correspond to the size of the territory controlled by Egypt and Jordan before the 4th of June 1967,” the document said.
“The agreement for the establishment of Palestine will resolve all final-status issues, including the issue of settlements. Israelis who choose to remain in their homes in the state of Palestine will live under Palestinian law,” it said. “There will be a complete withdrawal in stages of Israeli forces from the territory of Palestine. The last Israeli forces will evacuate when the final stage of the agreement comes into effect.”
On Jerusalem, the document states: “Any solution must take into account the historical, social, cultural and emotional connections of the two peoples to the city, as well as protect the holy sites.”
Netanyahu has vowed not to allow Jerusalem to be divided. He has also said since talks collapsed a year ago that the Palestinian leadership does not behave like a partner for peace.
The revelation exposed Netanyahu and his Likud Party to criticism from other right-wing parties competing for conservative votes in the March 17 election.
Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party, which opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, said in a Facebook posting that the revelation makes the March 17 election a referendum on Palestinian statehood. Reelecting Likud amounts to a vote in favor, he said.
Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the rightist Yisrael Beiteinu party, said the document shows that the Likud does not intend to deal with issues pertaining to Arab Israelis.
Liberman’s party seeks to exchange lands on the West Bank border where many Arab Israelis live with territories populated by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.