Ya'alon says Israel, PA working to extend talks beyond 9-month period

Defense minister says PA opposed to position paper proposed by US; Lapid says Liberman's plan to transfer Israeli Arab towns to PA unfeasible.

Yaalon at IDF Home Front Command’s base 370 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Yaalon at IDF Home Front Command’s base 370
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
The current focus of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is to reach a framework for extending contacts beyond the nine-month period set last year, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon revealed on Tuesday, during a visit to the IDF's Central Command in northern Jerusalem.
"Nothing is certain in the diplomatic process," Ya'alon said. "There were those who thought we'd reach a permanent agreement in the [allotted] time frame," he added.
"What is clear is that there are big gaps. They're not new, but our interest is certainly to continue the talks, and to continue to act to stabilize the situation, and relations between us and the Palestinians," the defense minister said.
He praised the Central Command, which has jurisdiction over the Wes Bank, for "standardizing relations with the Palestinians" and contributing to stability, through coordinating joint security activities, and promoting economic cooperation.
Many terrorist plots have been thwarted by the IDF and Shin Bet [Israeli Security Agency], Ya'alon added.
Addressing Palestinian rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on West Bank roads, Ya'alon said Israel would not tolerate such incidents, and will seek to stamp them out. He said the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank does not have an interest to spark a third intifada, but that its incitement to hatred and violence was creating lone attackers, and that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were seeking a surge in violence, the latter with Iranian support.
Asked about a Wall Street Journal report that appeared last week saying that Hezbollah imported parts of the supersonic Yakhont anti-ship missile, Ya'alon said that as far as Israel knows, Hezbollah does not possess the weapon.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Yair Lapid told Army Radio on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's proposal to transfer Arab townships in Israel proper to Palestinian Authority control was unfeasible.
"I don't think that the State of Israel will get rid of Israeli citizens," Lapid said. "One of the things that we expect from a final-status agreement is that it would bring about a complete change in our relations with the world, which have been in constant decline these last few years."
"An agreement [that would entail population transfers] would mean giving up an improvement in our relations, and I don't want that," the finance minister said.
Lapid called on the Israeli government to "take more seriously" US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to move the peace process forward.
Liberman said on Sunday that the only agreement with the Palestinians that Yisrael Beytenu will support will be one where there is an exchange of populations, and not only territory.
Speaking at the Foreign Ministry’s annual meeting of Israel’s ambassadors, Liberman said he was referring specifically to re-routing the border so that Wadi Ara and the Little Triangle, a collection of Arab villages next to the Green Line, would be a part of a future Palestinian state.
"We are not talking about a transfer, as was done to the Jewish settlements in Gush Katif,” he said. “Nobody will be expelled from their homes or dispossessed of their possessions.”
Instead, he said, what he had in mind was “simply moving the border.”
Liberman said there was no reason Israeli Arabs living there “should not join their brethren under full Palestinian sovereignty and become citizens of the future Palestinian state that they want so badly.”