Netanyahu serious with flag 311 ap.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israeli officials refused to comment Tuesday on a Newsweek report claiming that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was demanding an Israeli security presence not only on the Jordan River as part of a future peace accord, but also on the Palestinian side of the security barrier.
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According to the report, Netanyahu insisted during three rounds of direct talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September that the Palestinians needed to accept Israel’s security concept before discussing issues such as borders.
The report said this security concept “involved keeping Israeli troops stationed along territory on the Palestinian side of the barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to protect what Israel calls its ‘narrow waistline.’”
While Netanyahu has said publicly in the past that Israel would need to retain a security presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state to prevent arms smuggling from Jordan, he has never discussed – at least not publicly – keeping an IDF presence on the western part of the border.
One source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that there were “numerous factual errors” in the Newsweek
report, which also said that Netanyahu offered the Palestinians a state on some 60 percent of the territory, compared to some 95% offered by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert. The official said that Netanyahu has said that in order for the negotiations to be successful, they must be confidential.
While not confirming the report, the official said that “what is correct is that the prime minister said there can be no compromises on security. The issue of security has to be our highest priority, and there have to be ironclad security arrangement on the ground in any peace agreement.”
The challenge in the diplomatic process, the official said, is to “reconcile the Palestinian demand for sovereignty and independence with Israel’s requirement for recognition and security.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, introduced a new idea of his own during a press conference following a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, calling on the international community to “take responsibility for the Philadelphi corridor and the Rafah crossing” to prevent the smuggling of missiles and weapons from Sinai into Gaza.
Lieberman, referring to increasing calls by the international community to open Gaza to the free flow of goods and people, said that “if the international community will stop the smuggling, we don’t have any reason for any restrictions.”
Meanwhile, Arab League foreign ministers are scheduled to hold a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments surrounding the Middle East peace process in light of Washington’s admission that it had failed to persuade Israel to extend a moratorium on settlement construction.
On the eve of the meeting, PA President Abbas met in Ramallah with US special envoy George Mitchell and reiterated his opposition to resume peace talks with Israel unless construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem was halted.
Abbas also demanded that when and if the negotiations were resumed, they would focus on the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, a PA official said.
Prior to the Arab League meeting, Abbas will brief Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the results of his talks with Mitchell, the official added, denying that the Americans had given the Palestinians any assurances regarding the peace talks.
“We’re disappointed with the US administration,” the PA official said. “We made it clear to the Americans that peace talks can’t take place while Israel continues to build in the settlements and create new facts on the ground.”
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said after the meeting with Mitchell that the US administration presented the Palestinians with ideas, although he refused to elaborate.
Erekat said that the Palestinians had reaffirmed their demand for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and that east Jerusalem was “occupied like the rest of the Palestinian territories.”
In indirect criticism of the US administration, Erekat said, “Those who talk about reaching a comprehensive peace on the basis of a two-state solution must commit the Israeli government to halt settlement activities and its unilateral measures in Jerusalem, including house demolitions, the deportation of residents and creating new facts on the ground.”
The PLO official held Israel fully responsible for the current impasse
in the peace process because it had chosen settlements over peace.
Mitchell said after the meeting with Abbas that Washington was determined to see a Palestinian state.
“There are still many difficulties and obstacles in the way, but we are
determined to persevere in our efforts to see an independent and viable
Palestinian state,” he said.