Irreconcilable differences?

As direct negotiations are set to launch, a look at where the Israelis and Palestinians stand on core issues.

peace talks trio 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
peace talks trio 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
As Israel and the Palestinians are set to relaunch direct negotiations on Thursday, the sides will lay out their positions on the core issues.What follows is a scorecard of where each side stands on these issues: borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.
BORDERS While the Palestinians have demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledge that the starting point for a discussion on borders is the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon adjustments, Netanyahu has consistently refused to do so.
His position is that UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted after the Six Day War, does not require a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, more exactly called the 1949 armistice lines. Instead, Netanyahu argues that Israel must have defensible borders, something that in his mind is incompatible with a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines.
Regarding settlements, unlike previous governments, where government spokesmen made clear that any agreement would necessitate a complete removal of the settlements in the territories that will become a Palestinian state, Netanyahu has been careful not to talk about the need to uproot settlements.
There are some key members in his inner circle, moreover, who believe that in a future peace agreement, Jews should be able to live in a future Palestinian state, just as there is an Arab minority in the Jewish one.
SECURITY In last year’s Bar-Ilan University speech, in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accepted publicly the idea of a twostate solution, he said that any future Palestinian state must, however, be demilitarized.
“We must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hizbullah and Iran,” he said, spelling out what – in his mind – demilitarized meant.
Since then Netanyahu has spoken increasingly about the need for an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state, to ensure that weapons are not smuggled into it, as is the case with arms to Hizbullah coming from Syria, and weapons for Hamas in Gaza coming through Sinai.
And, with the US withdrawing from Iraq, there is increasing concern – again – about having to protect Israel some day against an attack on its eastern front.
REFUGEES Netanyahu has said repeatedly that any peace accord would necessitate Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, a code for refusing the “right of return” to Palestinian refugees.
The government has made clear that acceptance of a two-state solution means that Palestinian refugees who want to return to the region would be absorbed in a future Palestinian state, just as Israel has over the years absorbed millions of Jewish immigrants.
Netanyahu has not said anything about accepting a limited number of Palestinian refugees as a “humanitarian gesture,” as then-prime minister Ehud Olmert did during his talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008.
JERUSALEM Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel. He has given no indication, as Olmert did, that he would be willing to cede Arab neighborhoods in the capital to the Palestinians for their capital, nor that he was willing – as Olmert said he was – to share sovereignty over the Temple Mount, or the area encompassing the Old City and its environs known as the “holy basin.
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A document prepared by the PLO Negotiation Department has been delivered to the US administration and other members of the Quartet ahead of the direct talks that are scheduled to begin in Washington this week. The document details the Palestinian Authority’s positions on a variety of issues related to the peace process.
The document states that final-status negotiations must be based on previously agreed terms of reference: international law; UN resolutions, including 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 and 194; the road map; agreements previously concluded between the parties, and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Final-status negotiations must resume from the point at which they left off in December 2008 with former prime minister Ehud Olmert, and must address all core issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water, security and prisoners.
The Palestinians also reject the option of a “state with provisional borders” or any further transitional or interim solutions.
BORDERS The document states that the Palestinians will try to secure a UN Security Council resolution that recognizes the State of Palestine on the June 4, 1967 border, with east Jerusalem as its capital. In essence, this option is an international imposition of a final-status solution between the parties based on international law.
This leaves the option of accepting the solution or rejecting it. Thus it will not be a unilateral declaration of independence, as PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would prefer.
According to the document, security, stability and peace in the region will not be attained unless the Israeli occupation of all Arab and Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 comes to an end.
An interest-based model of cooperation, taking into account that the US deploys over 230,000 troops in the Middle East, should be adopted by all.
REFUGEES With regards to the issue of the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, the Palestinian position calls for a resolving the issue “in a just manner, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.”
SETTLEMENTS The Palestinian position on this issue remains firm and unchanged – that all the settlements that were built after 1967 are illegal and should be evacuated.
For full Jpost coverage of the 2010 peace talks, click here