(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel’s response to any peace plan proposed by the Trump administration would be determined solely by the country’s security needs and interests.
The comments came amid reports that the US plans to push forward with a peace plan that would recognize a Palestinian state but leave open the possibility for all Israeli settlers to remain in their homes. An Israeli TV report to this effect Saturday night was dismissed as inaccurate by both Israel and the US.
Speaking to a gathering of Likud ministers Sunday morning, Netanyahu said, “As for the speculation I’ve been hearing [about the US plan], if [US President Donald] Trump presents a diplomatic plan, the only consideration that will guide me will be Israel’s national and security interests.”
At the full cabinet meeting shortly after, Netanyahu told ministers, “I don’t intend to address the many speculations we’ve heard over the weekend” regarding the Trump plan. But, he added, the security and other interests that will determine Israel’s response to such a plan “have been explained fully to our American friends.”
At the earlier meeting, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin asked Netanyahu if the Trump administration was aware of last month’s cabinet decision that ruled out negotiating with any Palestinian government “that relies on Hamas.”
“Very much,” Netanyahu replied, according to Channel 10 news. “I, too, won’t agree to talks with the Palestinians as long as Hamas is part of an alliance [with the Palestinian Authority,” he told the Likud ministers.
According to a Hadashot (formerly Channel 2) news report Saturday, the US plan would include recognition of a Palestinian state, but no insistence on the evacuation of Israeli settlements or settlers under a permanent accord, while Washington would back most of Israel’s security demands regarding the West Bank.
Citing what it said were senior Israelis intimately involved in the ongoing discussions with Trump’s peace team, Hadashot said the plan would see Trump prepared to offer recognition of Palestinian statehood, with the parameters of that state to include land swaps. The borders, however, would “not necessarily” be based on the pre-1967 lines.
Sunni Arab states and others would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance for the Palestinians to help encourage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the deal, the report said.
The US would recognize most of Israel’s stated security needs, including for the ongoing presence of Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley, the TV report added. It said Netanyahu, for his part, was pushing for the retention of overall Israeli security control in all Palestinian territory.
No settlers or settlements would be evacuated under the US proposal, the TV report said, and no Arabs would be required to relocate.
The report was immediately denied by both Washington and Jerusalem.
A White House official called it “not an accurate representation” of the peace plan being worked on.
“There is constant speculation and guessing about what we are working on and this report is more of the same,” the official said. “It is not an accurate representation; rather it is a mix of possibilities and ideas that have existed for decades.”
“What we can say is we are engaged in a productive dialogue with all relevant parties and are taking a different approach than the past to create an enduring peace deal,” the official told The Times of Israel. “We are not going to put an artificial deadline on anything and we have no imminent plans beyond continuing our conversations. As we have always said, our job is to facilitate a deal that works for both Israelis and Palestinians, not to impose anything on them.”
Netanyahu’s office similarly stated that “the report is not accurate.” It said Netanyahu’s response to the US proposal would depend on its content and specifically on whether it met “the security needs and national needs of the State of Israel.”
The proposal is to be presented within months, but not in the next month, the TV report claimed. It will not deal with the issue of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, or with US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.
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