(Washington, D.C.) — Is Prime Minister Netanyahu preparing to give away 86% of the West Bank to create a sovereign Palestinian state? That’s what Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister says. Israel’s Intelligence Minister is also telling the media that Netanyahu is willing to make “serious territorial concessions.”
Peace talks are set to begin here in Washington next week, possibly as early as Tuesday.
“Netanyahu would agree ‘to a Palestinian state on 86% of the territory,’ said Ze’ev Elkin, a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud party,” reports two Israeli media outlets, the Times of Israel and Maariv. “The prime minister would not consent to the division of Jerusalem, Elkin added, ‘but Tzipi Livni would.’ Livni, leader of the Hatnua party, will be heading Israel’s team to the negotiations.”
“However, Elkin, who opposes Palestinian statehood, went on to note that the Palestinians had rejected Ariel Sharon’s idea, and had always indicated that they insisted on attaining 100% of the West Bank, with very limited land swaps on a one-for-one basis, to enable Israel to maintain only what he called ‘settlement strings’ rather than settlement blocs,” reported the Times. “The Orthodox Elkin, who lives at the Kfar Eldad settlement in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem, said that, thus far, ‘the Lord…has solved our problems via the Arabs. [Yasser] Arafat didn’t accept [former prime minister Ehud] Barak’s offers,’ and Abbas didn’t accept former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s proposals, he said. ‘But if the Palestinians, heaven forbid, were to show flexibility and come toward us, we’d get a lousy deal….On the 86% of the territory they’d get, they would build a terror state…But the fact is that the Palestinians haven’t budged a millimeter’ in their demands for 100% of the West Bank.”
“We are prepared to make considerable concessions and it’s not going to be easy,” said Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs, in an interview with the UK Telegraph. “Both sides will have to make very significant concessions and very difficult concessions. We will probably have to make very serious territorial concessions. And the Palestinians will have to make also both territorial concessions — because there will be settlement blocks — but more important still they will have to recognise the very existence of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
Other stories worth tracking on the peace process:
- Israel willing to make ‘serious territorial concessions’ to secure Middle East peace (UK Telegraph)
- The value of Mideast ‘talks about talks’ (interesting Washington Post oped ed by the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Legal group to Kerry: Pre-1967 lines as basis for talks contravenes US commitments (Jerusalem Post)
- Kerry promised all pre-Oslo prisoners will go free, claims Arab MK (Times of Israel)
- Netanyahu affirms support for referendum on peace — “On Monday, Netanyahu defended the idea of a national referendum on any peace agreement with the PA, even fending off challenges from within his faction. ‘I support the referendum for the simple reason that it’s a very important issue,’ Netanyahu told members of Likud-Beytenu at the faction’s weekly meeting. ‘I don’t think a diplomatic agreement can be decided by an arbitrary majority.'” (Times of Israel)
- No cracks yet. Despite dissent, Netanyahu faces no real challenges from Likud over peace talks — Senior Likud official says Netanyahu’s promise to limit West Bank settlement tenders represents no real policy change; adds: No party member will act to thwart release of Palestinian prisoners. (Haaretz)
- Poll: 84% of Israeli Jews against Palestinian prisoner release — A majority believe peace process should not entail the release of deadly terrorists and the return to the 1967 borders, but two-state solution still popular; 73.1% say new talks will not produce an agreement that resolves conflict. (Israel Hayom)
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