Settler leaders unfazed by PA rejection of land swap

'Palestine Papers' challenge Israeli assumption that any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would include swaps for “settlement blocs.”

Maaleh Adumim 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Maaleh Adumim 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Settler leaders from Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Efrat appeared unfazed on Monday after newly leaked diplomatic documents negated basic Israeli assumptions that the Palestinians would accept land inside the Green Line in exchange for the three West Bank communities.
“Some settlements can not be included in land swaps under any conditions,” former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ahmed Qurei told then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during a May 4, 2008, negotiating session at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel.
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The transcript of the conversation was among the first of an expected 1,684 documents on 11 years of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that Al- Jazeera began leaking late Sunday night.
The initial documents show that the Palestinians rejected basic Israeli concepts of the configuration of their future state.
The leaders of the settlements in question maintained that the Palestinian statements did not shake their belief in their future.
“We are in the [Israeli] consensus, and there is no argument about this point,” said Givat Ze’ev Regional Council head Yossi Avrahami, whose community of 10,800 is located immediately north of Jerusalem, 4.9 km. from the pre-1967 armistice line.
“We are part of Israel and we will continue to be part of Israel,” said Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, whose settlement of more than 34,300 is located just east of the capital.
It has been widely assumed that any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would include land swaps for “settlement blocs” that are just inside the West Bank.
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Palestinians, however, said their priority was territorial contiguity, and as a result they could not agree to land swaps in every instance, particularly with respect to Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Efrat.
Located in the Gush Etzion region just south of Jerusalem, 6.5 km. over the Green Line, Efrat is home to around 7,200 Jews.
In the leaked documents, Palestinian negotiators also insisted they could not accept land swaps for the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa and the West Bank settlement city of Ariel, the latter being home to more than 17,600 people.
Although Israelis have mostly assumed that Ariel would be retained under a peace agreement, its status in that regard has been less certain than that of Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev and Efrat.
In a June 15, 2008, conversation with Livni at the Inbal Hotel, Qurei said, “Ariel goes for 19 km. into the West Bank and this impedes geographical continuity and enables Israel to control water resources.”
On Monday, Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman said that at around the same time, he asked then-prime minister Ehud Olmert about his city’s future.
“I asked him, ‘Look at my eyes and tell me what the future of Ariel is?’ He said, ‘Look at my eyes and I will tell you that Ariel is not part of Israel, Ariel is Israel,” recalled Nachman.
The mayor added that he had more faith in this personal exchange with Olmert than he did in any statements made by Palestinians in the leaked documents.
In an interview with Channel 1 on Monday, Kadima Council chairman Haim Ramon, who had been involved in many of the sessions with the Palestinians, cautioned that the documents presented a partial picture of the negotiations. In the end, he said, there appeared to be agreement that Ma’aleh Adumim would be part of Israel in a final-status agreement.
The stiff battle, Ramon said, was over Ariel, where a compromise appeared to have been brokered that would give the Palestinians rights to the water basin under the city in exchange for allowing its residents to remain.
A number of settler leaders said the new revelations showed that, contrary to the media’s portrayal of deep concessions, the Palestinians had actually taken hard-line positions.
The leaks show “that Palestinian positions are even more extreme than we thought,” said Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and those “hard-line positions are portrayed as treason” by Palestinians.
“It only strengthens my opinion that the Israeli Left and maybe even part of the current government are illusionists in thinking that an agreement can be reached,” Dayan said.