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PA challenges Israel to submit map of proposed borders

US scrambles to keep talks alive, sides using media to swap offers

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PA challenges Israel to submit map of proposed borders

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered this week to freeze settlements again if the Palestinian Authority would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinians countered on Wednesday by challenging Israel to produce a map of the future borders of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, after which the PA will call Israel “whatever it wants.”

“We officially demand that the US administration and the Israeli government provide a map of the borders of the State of Israel which they want us to recognize," Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestinian negotiation team, told AFP on Wednesday. "If this map is based on the 1967 borders and provides for the end of the Israeli occupation over all Palestinian lands... then we recognize Israel by whatever name it applies to itself in accordance with international law."

The move came after the US urged both sides to make efforts to stick with the direct talks format, which is currently on the rocks due to Palestinian demands that Israel first halt all settlement activity. Despite the stalemate, it appears the two sides are content to trade grand proposals and counter-offers through the media at present. Noting the latest turn of events, Israeli President Shimon Peres told visiting Finnish President Tarja Halonen on Tuesday that having the negotiations open to public scrutiny is having a negative effect and it would be better if the negotiations were conducted behind closed doors.

The deadlock prompted a senior official in the Fatah party of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to declare on Tuesday that the two-state solution is now dead. “The Palestinian Authority made every effort to avoid reaching this conclusion, but Israeli racist policies led to the failure of the peace process,” said Mahmoud Aloul, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, adding that he blamed the Obama administration for failing to force Israel to alter its policies and halt settlement construction.

The Fatah figure's declaration appeared to be mere rhetoric, however, after today's subsequent demand for an Israeli map of the proposed border between the two states.

“If the Palestinians are willing to engage seriously in a process of give and take, Israel is willing to show flexibility,” a senior Israeli official replied. “But it has to be a process of give and take, not demand and take.” He added that “No settlement growth in the coming year would influence the final map of peace, so for that reason this is an artificial issue.”

There was skepticism and frustration with the deadlock on the Israeli side as well. “There is no chance in the years ahead for a peace deal with the Palestinians,” Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon told Army Radio on Tuesday. “The Palestinians think the occupation began in 1948, not 1967. Not just Hamas – Abbas thinks so, too. We need to be free of illusions. Their lack of recognition of Israel as the home of the Jewish people and their unwillingness to establish that an accord would be the end of mutual claims teach us that they are not interested in Israel as a state beside them.”

Analysts agree that if Abbas were to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as Netanyahu proposed, it would mean giving up on the ‘right of return’ to Israel for all the Palestinian refugees who left the country during the 1948 War of Independence.

Still, US State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley on Tuesday suggested the Israeli demand was legitimate. "We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well," said Crowley. "A core demand of the Israeli government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration…”

 

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