Speaking to reporters last night Israel ’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hammered away on one of his favorite points: the Palestinian precondition, no peace talks without a comprehensive freeze on West Bank settlement construction. “Let’s stop piling preconditions.” Said the Prime Minister, “Let’s get on with it. Let’s get on with peace negotiations.”
During the same speech, Netanyahu also insisted that East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want for a Capitol of their future state, is not up for negotiation and will remain part of Israel at the end of a peace deal. He demanded that Israel maintain a presence “on the Eastern side of a Palestinian state” to keep militants from using the territory to launch rockets at Israel ’s heartland. The Prime Minister was not clear if that simply meant a military presence on the Jordanian border or if Israel would keep the Jordan valley. Either way, it would leave the future Palestinian state as an Island with no control of its border.
Before I move on to the Palestinian objections, I’m obligated to stop and recognize that the Prime Minister has good arguments for wanting to control the border. Israel doesn’t control the Syrian/Lebanon border and Hizbollah smuggles rockets across it which were fired en mass at Israeli civilians in the 2006 war. They have since re-supplied their stockpile. When Israel pulled out of Gaza and gave up control of the Gaza/Egypt border, weapons flowed through the tunnels and rockets fly from Gaza into Israel . You can’t make an argument against the fear that if Israel were to give up control of the Jordanian border, weapons would cross it and be placed in range of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian objection this time, however, is that the Prime Minister condemns pre-conditions as the obstacle to peace, as he lays out his own. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat fumed, “What are these if not preconditions on negotiations that erode any foundation of hope for the two-state solution?”
Erekat insisted that Prime Minister Netanyahu was imposing conditions which include: no settlement freeze, no Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, no sharing of Jerusalem, no right for Palestinian refugees to return and now no Jordan Valley in the future Palestine. “What Benjamin Netanyhau basically said is that is does not matter what happens in negotiations,” said Erekat.
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