The Palestinian Authority on Thursday rejected any Israeli plans to retain territory or even maintain a security presence on any portion of the West Bank or east Jerusalem after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Peace with Israel is not possible unless a Palestinian state with full sovereignty is established in the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as it capital, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, announced.
His statement comes after a series of three speeches Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered this week, in which he said peace was possible only if Israel’s security needs were taken into account and if Palestinians accepted Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people.
At a public address at the Knesset plenum on Wednesday, Netanyahu said, “We do not want an Iranian proxy in Judea and Samaria, as has already happened along our borders. This requires that Israel’s security border be placed in the Jordan Valley.”
Israel has long argued that it needs to maintain a security presence in that valley. But Abu Rudaineh said the PA would not accept any Israeli military presence “on the territories of the State of Palestine,” which he had just clarified as anything over the Green Line.
The spokesman pointed out that this was especially relevant to the Jordan Valley where, he added, the PA won’t accept the presence of “even a single Israeli soldier.” He made his statements in Rome while traveling in Europe with Abbas.
He is also scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Abu Rudaineh’s comments came in response to unconfirmed reports in Ma’ariv, according to which the Israelis and Palestinians have been discussing possible land swaps within Area C that would be actualized in the midst of the negotiations.
Such a swap would allow Israel to annex a portion of the West Bank where settlements are located while at the same time transferring other portions to the Palestinian Authority.
One report, published in the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv, claimed that Israel has requested to lease the Jordan Valley for a prolonged period of time.
Army Radio quizzed chief negotiator Tzipi Livni about the reports in an interview on Thursday. She said that the parties had agreed not to divulge any information about the nine-month negotiation process that began in July.
Livni reminded Army Radio that all subjects were on the table during the negotiations and that in the process, many ideas have been tossed about.
It’s important to distinguish between public statements and the negotiations taking place behind closed doors, she said.
But, Livni said, its obvious that any final-status agreement would have to take into account Israeli security considerations.
A sticking point for Palestinians is that during the talks, Israel has been continuing settlement activity, in which it continues to build and issue new permits for Jewish construction.
Israel in turn is upset that the Palestinians continue to work against it diplomatically within the international arena.
Abbas plans to speak with Merkel and Cameron about the importance of forcing Israel to halt settlement activity. He will urge them to support fully activating existing European Union legislation to allow its member states to place consumer labels on West Bank settlements products and to ensure that entities in Judea and Samaria as well as east Jerusalem are not funded by the EU.
“According to international law, settlements are illegal,” Abu Rudaineh said.
On Wednesday, Abbas met with the speaker of the Italian parliament, Laura Boldrini, and briefed her on Israeli “transgressions against Islamic and Christian sites,” the WAFA News Agency said. He also discussed the economic hardships facing Palestinians and the latest developments surrounding the peace process, the news agency added.
Next week, Netanyahu is set to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome to discuss the peace talks.
Before Rome, Kerry will be in Paris on October 21 to discuss the peace talks with the Arab League. He will also meet Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to “discuss bilateral and international issues,” including the status of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of “sabotaging” the peace process by pursuing settlement construction.
AFP quoted Erekat as saying that the ongoing settlement construction showed that the Israeli focus was on settlements, and not peace. He said that Israel would have to bear full responsibility for destroying the peace process.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the Israeli Palestinian talks continue to be sustained and serious.
Michael Wilner contributed to this report
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