Israel, PA lobby Quartet over issue of ‘67 borders

US Mideast envoy Mitchell, colleagues meet separately with Molcho, Erekat; Meridor: Inconceivable that Israel would return to 1967 lines.

March 10, 2011 17:33
3 minute read.
Saeb Erekat

erekat raise the roof REUTERS 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Quartet representatives met separately on Thursday in Israel with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, in what one Quartet source described as an attempt to gauge where the sides stand and to look for ways to restart the negotiations.

This was one of the few times that the Quartet – comprised of the US, EU, Russia and UN – has inserted itself to any serious degree into the negotiations, as it is usually content to let the US alone fill that role. This change reflects the desire not only of the Palestinians, who want to see more of an international role in the diplomatic process, but also of the EU, Russia and the UN for greater involvement.

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Israel has long opposed efforts to bring any third party except the US into the negotiation process.

The Quartet representatives – US Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s adviser David Hale; the EU’s deputy secretary-general for the new External Action Service, Helga Schmid; Russian Middle East envoy Sergei Yakovlev; and the UN’s Mideast envoy, Robert Serry – met first with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Four hours later, they met Palestinian official Saeb Erekat at the UN headquarters in Jerusalem.

No details of either meeting were provided.

A more senior-level meeting of the Quartet, originally scheduled for next week, has been postponed until April, with the Palestinians pushing hard to get it to issue a statement endorsing a two-state solution with the 1967 lines as the baseline of a future Palestinian state.

“Such a declaration must include recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and finding a just solution to the case of the Palestinian refugees on the basis of UN [General Assembly] Resolution 194,” Erekat said.

Israel is trying to prevent such a move, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position being that the 1967 armistice lines would not give Israel secure and defensible borders.

Using the 1967 lines as a baseline, for instance would foreclose the possibility of an IDF security presence on the Jordan River, something that Netanyahu is adamant that Israel must maintain.

It is in an effort to keep the international community from taking diplomatic positions tilting toward the Palestinians that Netanyahu is, according to officials in his office, working on a diplomatic initiative that is expected to be unveiled, at the latest, by the end of May.

Erekat and other PA representatives, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, on Thursday condemned remarks by Netanyahu regarding the future of the Jordan Valley.

“By declaring that the Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli control, the Israeli government is telling everyone that there is no partner for peace,” Erekat said.

“We can’t talk about a Palestinian state that does not exist on the borders of June 4, 1967, and that does not include east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Also, the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip must be one geographical unit,” he said.

Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said Israel needed to clearly state its territorial objectives, to counter the Palestinians increasingly effective use of “soft power,” rather than “fire and terrorism,” to achieve their aim of a state within the 1967 lines.

Meridor, in an Israel Radio interview, said it was inconceivable that Israel would return to the 1967 lines. “We will never agree to that,” he said.”

Meridor said that a new Israeli initiative needed to include a renewed call for negotiations that set a clear objective, and would force the PA to reveal it position on central issues such as the refugees.

The Palestinian use of “soft power,” which Meridor characterized as using flotillas to Gaza and protests in city squares with “very Western slogans” like freedom and liberty, was something Israel “needed to pay attention to.”

This new strategy was gaining achievements for the Palestinians, and Israel needed to counter it through diplomatic means, he said.

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