PM issues statement explaining ‘land swap’ agreement

WikiLeaks forces Netanyahu to say he doesn't want to govern W.Bank; characterizes Iranian regime as "crazy, retrograde, fanatical"; calls Mitchell "both nice and tough."

December 1, 2010 01:25
3 minute read.
Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting

311_netanyahu does slow clap. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)

A day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel had not been harmed by the WikiLeaks cables, his office issued a statement Tuesday explaining a cable that quoted him as supporting a land swap with the Palestinians.

At a meeting Netanyahu held with a congressional delegation led by Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin just days after the February 2009 elections that brought Netanyahu back to power, the incoming prime minister “expressed support for the concept of land swaps, and emphasized that he did not want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop attacks from being launched from there,” the cable said.

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Netanyahu has never publicly agreed to the idea – accepted by the Olmert government – that Israel would “swap” land inside the Green Line with the Palestinians for any land beyond the Green Line that would be retained by Israel as part of a final agreement.

Apparently feeling the need to explain this inconsistency, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying that “Netanyahu’s intention was only that he would be willing for territorial compromises within the framework of a future agreement. That was his stated policy, it is the policy now and in the February 2009 meeting he did not articulate any other position.”

The statement said that any other interpretation of his words was “simply incorrect and certainly does not represent the position of the prime minister.”

While the term “land swaps” appears in the opening paragraph of the cable – the summary paragraph – it does not appear later on in the document, where the details of the conversation are presented and Netanyahu articulates his position on the Palestinian track.

According to the cable, Netanyahu said there were three options: “withdrawing to the 1967 borders (that would ‘get terror, not peace’); doing nothing (‘just as bad’); or ‘rapidly building a pyramid from the ground up.’ Netanyahu suggested a rapid move to develop the West Bank economically, including ‘unclogging’ bureaucratic ‘bottlenecks.’” Netanyahu “promised that as Prime Minister his government would not ‘go back’ to unilateral withdrawals,” the cable said.

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The body of the cable said nothing about land swaps, leading one Israeli official to say Tuesday that Netanyahu had never used the loaded term, which does not appear in the document in quotation marks, but that it had been inserted in an interpretative manner by the diplomat who wrote the cable.

During the meeting, Netanyahu – according to the document – “described five threats that he saw emanating from Iranian nuclear development: a direct threat to Israel; a direct threat to other regional states; increased terrorist power under an Iranian nuclear umbrella; a Middle East nuclear arms race; and a destabilized Middle East, with Arab regimes ‘terrified’ of Iran in his view.”

He warned the congressional delegation that if Iran attained a nuclear bomb, any result from negotiations with the Palestinians would be “washed away,” the cable said.

He also described the Iranian regime in that conversation as “crazy, retrograde and fanatical, with a messianic desire to speed up a violent ‘end of days,’” according to the document.

During the meeting, Netanyahu also allegedly characterized US envoy George Mitchell, who had just been appointed by US President Barack Obama, as “both nice and tough.”

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