Israel proposes cantons, fenced border for Palestinians

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Published Friday, January 27, 2012

Palestinian officials have rejected an Israeli border proposal that would reduce a Palestinian state to cantons within the West Bank, while Israel kept its illegal Jewish settlements, Palestinian sources said on Friday.

A Palestinian delegation considered the verbal presentation by Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho to be a non-starter as it aims at creating a fenced-off territory that would preserve Jewish settlements.

"He killed the two-state solution, set aside previous agreements and international law," said a Palestinian Liberation Organization source. "Basically, the Israeli idea of a Palestinian state is made up of a wall and settlements."

The idea presented by Molcho "does not include Jerusalem and the Jordan valley, and includes almost all [Jewish] settlements," according to the Palestinian official.

The official also said Molcho suggested that any solution involving the creation a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel needs to "preserve the social and economic fabric of all communities, Jewish or Palestinian."

No maps were presented at the meeting, he added.

Even though it was the first time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration touched the borders issue with the Palestinians, the full advantage was given to the preservation of the illegal Jewish settlements.

An Israeli official said the presentation was in line with a framework for talks set by the Quartet, which consists of the United States, European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

The Quartet aims to ensure that the core issues of the borders and security are clearly set out by January 26, in hopes of relaunching the negotiations that have been stalled since September 2010, and reaching a peace accord by the end of this year.

But Palestinian rejection of the Israeli proposal was clearly expected, suggesting Israel is still paying lip service to international calls for a renewal of peace talks.

After five rounds of talks in Jordan, the Palestinian source said there are no more meeting scheduled and added that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants to consult Arab League states on the next move.

Abbas wants a Palestinian state that would include the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Hamas has urged Abbas to end negotiations with Israel, while the Jewish state continues to conduct military strikes against Gaza and arrest Palestinian lawmakers.

An Israeli official said that what Molcho presented were guiding principles that determine Israel's positions on the territorial issue.

The official noted that Netanyahu has acknowledged, in a speech to the United States Congress, that not all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank “will be on our side of the border” in a future Palestinian state.

Israel's approach to territorial compromise in the occupied West Bank includes the principal that "most Israelis will be under Israeli sovereignty and obviously most Palestinians will be under Palestinian sovereignty," the official said.

"We think it is very important that these talks continue. They are only at a preliminary stage, but they contain potential and obviously in less than a month it would have been illogical to talk about a breakthrough," he said.

Palestinians dispute this. "The Israelis brought nothing new to these meetings," said one official familiar with the talks.

Direct talks ground to a halt in September 2010, when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank construction expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it.

Abbas has said he will not hold talks without a freeze on settlement building and agreement on a clear framework for talks based on 1967 lines.

Israel, which maintains a military occupation in the West Bank and a siege on Gaza, has since sped up illegal settlement construction.

Continued Israeli occupation and refusal to halt settlements prompted the Palestinian Authority to seek UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas' Fatah faction is also progressing with reconciliation talks with Hamas in a bid to form a unity government and end years of division.

Israel strongly opposes Palestinian reconciliation, and refuses to include Hamas in any future peace negotiations, whose exclusion will almost certainly prevent a final peace deal to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

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