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Middle East
Israel 'sees border talks if PA drops UN bid'
Prime minister said to be willing to negotiate pre-1967 borders if Palestinians do not seek UN recognition next month.
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2011 14:48
Netanyahu reportedly proposed the talks during a closed-door Knesset meeting on Monday [EPA]

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants to negotiate borders with the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to local media reports, in an attempt to head off a Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations next month.

The exact details of Netanyahu's proposal are unclear. Israel's Army Radio and Channel 2 television both reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu was willing to hold talks based on the pre-war 1967 borders.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu had said that Israel "cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines".

AFP quoted an unnamed Israeli official who said the borders would be the basis for talks.

But a separate report from the Reuters news agency, quoting another unnamed official, said the proposal would not mention 1967 borders, though it could include borders "that would be difficult for Israel to accept".

The reports say Netanyahu would agree to the talks if the PA drops its UN bid. 

They also say that Netanyahu will demand the PA recognise Israel as a "Jewish state," something it has publicly refused to do - though Al Jazeera's publication of The Palestine Papers revealed that Palestinian officials accepted that demand in private.

Netanyahu reportedly made his proposal on Monday during a closed-door meeting of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defence committee.

The Israeli government has not made any official statement on the reports, and Netanyahu's office did not respond to a request for comment.

If the reports are accurate, Netanyahu's proposal would be a major policy shift; he has previously refused to accept the 1967 lines as a foundation for talks.

The PA, and most of the world, consider the 1967 lines to be the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Saeb Erekat, the PA's chief negotiator, said the authority would not believe Netanyahu has adopted a new position unless he announces it in public.

"So long as you don't hear it from Netanyahu's lips, don't pay attention to it, it's only a public relations stunt again," Erekat told Al Jazeera.

An official in Ramallah said the PA has not yet received a formal proposal from Netanyahu.

Blocking the UN bid

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, plans to ask the UN General Assembly next month to recognise a Palestinian state along 1967 borders.

Israeli officials are desperately trying to prevent that from happening, hence the renewed push for negotiations.

The United States, which opposes the Palestinian statehood bid, is working with the Israeli government to push for another round of talks.

In a major foreign policy speech earlier this year, Obama called for negotiations to establish two states "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed-upon swaps".

Negotiations between Israel and the PA resumed in Washington last September, only to collapse weeks later over Israel's refusal to stop illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Erekat said a halt in settlement growth would be another precondition for any renewed talks.

"Can we hear from your lips that you accept two states on 1967, and a stop to settlements, so Palestinians can resume negotiations?" he said.

Another halt is unlikely, though: Netanyahu ordered a partial nine-month freeze on construction in the West Bank in late 2009, and promised he would not impose another.

His government includes a number of right-wing parties which might leave the coalition over another freeze.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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