Official: Netanyahu ready to discuss border 'package'

Suggests PM has signaled readiness to renew talks frozen since last year in anticipation of Palestinian statehood bid.

August 2, 2011 04:20
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)


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Israel has told Middle East power brokers it was ready to discuss a proposed package on borders with Palestinians to help Western powers revive stalled peace talks, an official in Jerusalem said on Monday.

The official denied reports by Israeli and other media outlets that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had backed down from an earlier rejection of US President Barack Obama's proposal to negotiate a pullback to 1967 lines.

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But he suggested Netanyahu had signaled a new readiness to aid last-ditch US and European efforts to renew talks frozen since last year in anticipation of a Palestinian threat to seek a unilateral United Nations mandate for statehood in September.

Israeli and Western leaders have been concerned that any one-sided step could trigger new violence after months of calm, given the spreading unrest in the Arab world and recent calls by some Palestinians for protests to accompany any statehood bid.

"In order to restart peace talks with the Palestinians and facilitate the restarting of direct talks, Israel has been willing to accept a package that includes a formula on borders," the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such a package could include borders "that would be difficult for Israel to accept," the official said, adding that "a part of the package would mean being recognized as a Jewish state," a demand thus far rejected by Palestinian leaders.

Israel Radio and Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu had agreed to negotiate a possible withdrawal to pre-1967 lines.

The official in Jerusalem responded that Netanyahu "has been clear that Israel will not return to the 4th of June 1967 borders," or the lines that stood before that war.

Netanyahu told a closed-door session of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense committee earlier there were "ongoing efforts to restart peace talks" by Washington and European leaders who had so far failed to find a formula to do so.

The prime minister said further he was "willing to accept working with the international community to find a way to make that happen," the official quoted him as saying.

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