PM hints at placing IDF forces in PA state after any deal

In talks with US Jewish leaders, Netanyahu says US troops in Germany, Japan, Korea after WWII didn't make those countries less "sovereign."

September 21, 2010 01:09
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (AP).

netanyahu flag 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hinted on Monday that at least some IDF forces would need to be stationed long-term in a future Palestinian state and that this would not detract from the sovereignty of that state.

In a conference call with US Jewish leaders sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Netanyahu said there need not be a conflict between Israeli security needs and Palestinian sovereignty.

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'Talks to continue if settlement building remains frozen'

Germany, Japan and South Korea have had foreign troops on their soil for an extended period and nobody said that was “an affront to their respective sovereignties,” Netanyahu said, referring to US troops that were stationed in those countries following World War II.

Netanyahu said he did not believe an international force would be able to provide Israel with the security guarantees it needed, and that “the only force that can be relied on to defend the Jewish people is the Israel Defense Forces.”

Netanyahu has on numerous occasions said that an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state, meaning along the Jordan River, would be necessary to prevent the type of arms smuggling taking place from Syria to Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, and from Egypt to Hamas in Gaza. The prime minister stressed the need for solid security arrangements on the ground so as not to repeat the mistakes made in Lebanon and Gaza.

In his only reference to the impending end of the settlement construction moratorium, Netanyahu said that both sides needed to “stick it out even when we disagree.”

His talks so far with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been “substantive,” he said.

While Netanyahu did not discuss the settlement freeze directly, his senior adviser Ron Dermer, who answered questions along with Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, said that finding a way to get past the moratorium issue was a litmus test regarding whether it would be possible to solve other, more serious issues on the table later on.

Oren said the current visits to the US by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres were important “as we approach the end of the moratorium on September 26.”

The prime minister said the idea of coming to a framework agreement within a year was his idea, and that “If I have such a partner who is prepared to make a historic compromise, as I am, I think one year should be enough time.”

In Washington two weeks ago, Netanyahu demonstratively said on two occasions that Abbas was his “partner in peace.”

Meanwhile, Likud MK Ophir Akunis is working on a bill that will be brought to the Knesset at the beginning of its winter session next month calling for a referendum on any agreement reached with the PA.

Akunis reportedly discussed the matter with Netanyahu.

On August 22, the day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the renewal of direct talks, The Jerusalem Post quoted officials in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying that Netanyahu would take any accord he reached with the PA to the Knesset and then to the people, either in the form of a referendum or early elections.

In a related development, Barak met in New York on Monday with Clinton, and in Washington with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser James Jones and Dennis Ross, the White House’s senior Middle East adviser.

Following the Jones meeting, Barak issued a statement saying they discussed different ways to enable the continuation of direct talks with the Palestinians while “getting over” the issue of continued building in Judea and Samaria.

“The decisions facing Israel and the Palestinians are much more historic, important and dramatic then a continuation of building in Judea and Samaria,” he said.

While Barak’s meetings with Jones and Ross focused on diplomatic-process issues such as the settlement moratorium, his parley with Gates was largely devoted to issues relating to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.

The issue, always high on Israel’s agenda, has taken on added urgency as details of a new US arms deal with Saudi Arabia have emerged. The sale could reach as high as $60 billion and include advanced jets, helicopters and naval capabilities.

The Obama administration is to advise Congress on the deal shortly, which would give the legislative body 30 days to vote to block the sale, as some members are threatening to do. But most observers, including Israeli officials, believe Congress won’t stop the sale.

Instead of working to cancel the sale, Israel has tried to keep apprised of its exact components and ensure that the Saudis don’t get technologies that would threaten the IDF’s qualitative edge.

Barak’s meeting with Gates was aimed at learning more about the details and scope of the potential blockbuster sale. Israeli sources said that Jerusalem was “not thrilled” about the deal but understand it has to accept the political reality.

Israel has also been finalizing its own deal with the US for the advanced Joint Strike Fighter jet, and Barak has been holding conversations with Gates and the US defense establishment on the purchase.

Barak, during his talks in the White House, expressed concern about the approval of recent Russian sales to Syria, and said that what was most worrisome to Israel was that these weapons could find their way into Hizbullah’s hands, as was the case when Russian arms were found on the south Lebanon battlefield after the war there in 2006.

He also discussed Iran, and said Teheran was continuing to develop its nuclear program despite international sanctions.

“There is no doubt that the sanctions are harming Iran, but Iran is buying time. I repeat, from Israel’s point of view, all options need to remain on the table.”

In Prague, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman clarified to reporters after meeting Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg that his statements on Sunday about exchanging land and territories with the Palestinians were his personal opinions, and not those of the government.

Saying that the Israeli Arabs should be an issue in the negotiations with the Palestinians, Lieberman reiterated his plan that the formula for peace should not be land for peace, but an exchange of territories and populations that would redraw the borders, drawing most Israeli Arabs into a future Palestinian state, and most settlements into Israel.

The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s closest allies inside the EU, and Schwarzenberg said this alliance “is one of the key features of Czech foreign policy.”

Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.

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