Benny Elon 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
US Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback on Wednesday endorsed a new Mideast peace plan floated by an Israeli politician that calls for Israeli annexation of the West Bank and encourages Palestinian refugees to move elsewhere.
The endorsement put Brownback at odds with US and Israeli policies, which envision an independent Palestinian state that includes much of the West Bank.
The plan was drafted by lawmaker Benny Elon of the National Union party, which is affiliated with the religious settler movement and is considered one of the most hard-line parties in Israel's parliament.
It calls for giving Palestinian refugees financial incentives to emigrate, granting Jordanian citizenship to the remaining Palestinians, and allowing Israel to retain full sovereignty over the West Bank. Israeli settlements in the West Bank would remain in place, and the Palestinian Authority would be dismantled.
Such an arrangement would essentially allow Israel to keep the entire West Bank while taking little responsibility for its Arab residents. In the past, Israeli hard-liners have made similar proposals suggesting that a Palestinian state be established in neighboring Jordan while Israel remains in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In a videotaped message shown at a Jerusalem news conference, Brownback, a senator from Kansas with close ties to the conservative Christian right, called the plan "bold" and said it was "a realistic proposal and a different way forward."
"I think this moves away from the idea of land for peace, which has not worked," Brownback said.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the plan.
"We don't need such ideas that will add to the complexity and suffering. Palestinians and Israelis need the voices that will push them in the path of the two-state solution, not voices that add to the bloodshed," Erekat said.
In his statement, Brownback said he did not endorse all parts of the plan, explaining he did not think the Palestinian Authority should be completely dismantled but should remain in some kind of "organizing capacity."
The plan contradicts the policy of the current Israeli government, which has called for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been meeting regularly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to draft a joint statement ahead of a US-sponsored peace conference in November.
Jordanian officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. But the kingdom, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has rejected similar ideas in the past, saying the only way for Israel to enjoy stability and security is to establish a Palestinian state living in peace alongside it.
Jordan's King Abdullah II and other Jordanian officials have said such ideas violate the 1994 treaty, specifically a clause recognizing the kingdom's borders and existence as a separate entity in peace with Israel.
Jordan ruled the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, when it lost the territory to Israel. In the late 1980s, Jordan renounced its claim, saying Palestinians should decide their own destiny.