The Palestinian Authority will not accept less than 98 percent of Judea and Samaria and will most likely insist on getting part of Jerusalem, according to an Israel diplomatic source who spoke with reporters Sunday.
The unnamed source said these were part of the core positions the Palestinian leadership communicated to Israeli negotiators during the recent talks in Amman, Jordan, through a “document of principles.”
The document appears to indicate that the Palestinians reject the concept that Israel would retain certain Jewish settlement blocs under a future agreement, a concept that enjoys broad support in Israel. The percentage of land demanded by the Palestinians in the document also indicates that they seek a division of Jerusalem.
In addition to the “document of principles,” the Palestinians also gave the Israelis a document detailing their security positions, including a demand that the Palestinian police become a de facto military force, the source said. He added that the Palestinians had failed to provide the Prime Minister’s Office clarifications on why a military force would be necessary.
The Quartet-mediated Amman talks, which were launched with the hope of turning into full-fledged peace negotiations, were held intermittently in January. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched special negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and the head of the National Information Directorate at the PMO, Yoaz Hendel, to conduct the talks. Their Palestinian counterparts were veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator for the better part of the last 20 years, and Palestinian Authority Infrastructure Minister Muhammad Shali. The most recent session was held on Jan. 26, with no additional sessions currently scheduled, despite efforts by the U.S. and the EU.
While the Palestinians submitted two documents -- on the issues of borders and security -- Israeli negotiators opted to present only a list of 21 outstanding issues that still need to be ironed out before Israel could submit a document of principles to the Palestinians. On borders, the Israeli document says that “the parts of Judea and Samaria that would remain under Israeli control shall have a maximum of Jewish residents with a minimum number of Arabs.”
With regard to Jerusalem, the Israeli document notes that this is the most complex issue and a resolution should be held off until the final stages of the negotiations. Netanyahu has so far refused to say whether he would be willing to carry out territorial swaps. The Israelis also believe that the Quartet’s recently announced peace plan, which served as the basis for the talks, does not mandate that the parties submit documents, and therefore did not hand over a document on this matter.
After reviewing the Palestinian documents, Israeli negotiators issued 19 caveats, one of them on the question of settlements. After Israel noted that the PA agreed to let the Jewish state keep 1.9% of Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians were asked how they would reconcile the fact that the land they had designated for a state lay in part on areas housing Jewish settlements. The Palestinians have yet to respond.
When Netanyahu appeared before a joint session of the U.S. Congress in May 2011, he said that when all is said and done, a peace accord would necessarily mean that some Israeli settlements would end up inside a Palestinian state.
In addition to clarifications on the military issue, Israel also asked that the Palestinians provide explanations on the recently announced unity government with Hamas, and specifically whether Hamas would accept the Quartet’s preconditions (chief among them recognizing the state of Israel by means of accepting past agreements, and renouncing terrorism) if the group were to join talks with Israel. Erekat responded that the unity government “will be based on a strong democracy.”
“The positions presented by the Palestinians are a non-starter,” the diplomatic source said Sunday. “The two documents submitted on borders and security bear content that can be easily found online, and are nothing new; on territorial demands, Palestinians have set terms that no prime minister has ever accepted nor would any prime minister ever be able to accept.”
The source also said that the Palestinians had been “ignoring the reality on the ground shaped by the last 40 years; they have also reverted to the preconditions they had previously set for entering negotiations, namely a moratorium on settlement construction and the release of prisoners, including Aziz Rantisi, the Hamas spokesperson in Judea and Samaria.”
“We didn’t agree on anything,” the Israeli source concluded. “The goal was to build mutual trust, but this was not achieved. We have not made any serious headway, and the talks mostly centered on the other party’s desire to have preconditions reintroduced through the back door. All along the Palestinians stonewalled on having the [Israeli] prime minister and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet. The only issue that transcended the disagreements was the date of the next negotiating session, which eventually also unraveled as they refused to set a date beyond Jan. 26 meeting.”
A top PMO official told Israel Hayom that he believed “the Palestinians will relaunch their U.N. membership bid in the span of a few short weeks in order to attain statehood.” The source went on to say that if the Fatah-Hamas meeting next week produces, as is widely expected, a breakthrough that paves the way for a unity government, the Israeli government may decide to halt the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority. This would be the third such decision over the past year alone, and might be accompanied a similar move by the U.S., the source said.