JERUSALEM (Jun. 4)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu envisions a permanent settlement with the Palestinians that would include Israeli control over Jerusalem and much of the West Bank.
His vision, outlined in detail for the first time this week, was promptly denounced by Palestinian officials.
Dr. Ahmed Tibi, an adviser to Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, said the plan was “a blueprint for confrontation, not a peace plan.”
Netanyahu sketched out his ideas for the final-status talks Wednesday at a meeting of the Security Cabinet, which last week began to prepare Israel’s positions for negotiating with the Palestinians.
The final-status talks — which will tackle the thorny issues of Jerusalem, borders, the Palestinian political entity, refugees and settlements — were slated to begin last year and conclude by May 1999.
A ceremonial opening session was held before the May 1996 Israeli elections, but there have been no meetings since.
Netanyahu has proposed moving into accelerated final-status talks, with an agreement to reach an accord within six months.
The Palestinians have rejected the idea, calling it a ploy by Israel to get out of implementing outstanding elements of the Interim Agreement, including further troop redeployments in the West Bank and the opening of an airport and seaport in Gaza.
Under his plan, Netanyahu said Israel must maintain control over the greater Jerusalem area, including outlying settlements in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of the city.
He also said the Jordan Valley should remain under full Israeli control because of its significance for security and settlement.
He added that settlements along the pre-1967 boundary, the so-called “Green Line,” should remain in Israeli hands.
Netanyahu’s plan also includes Israeli control over major water sources in the West Bank.
Netanyahu told his ministers that he was opposed to drawing up detailed maps at this early stage in the process.
He added that he believed he could gain a national consensus for his plan, which he said would make negotiations with the Palestinians easier.
The prime minister last week denied that he had drawn up a map similar to one published in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
That map, which purported to represent the general principles of Netanyahu’s plan, turned over some 40 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control.
Wednesday’s meeting of the Security Cabinet coincided with the annual commemorations of Jerusalem Day, which this year marked 30 years since the eastern and western halves of the city were reunited. Tens of thousands of people took part in parades, special events and memorial ceremonies for the soldiers who fell in the 1967 Six-Day War.
At the central ceremony at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill, where one of the bloodiest battles was fought between Israeli and Jordanian forces, Netanyahu reaffirmed the view of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
“Some of our neighbors say no agreement can be reached until we agree to divide Jerusalem. The idea on Jerusalem Day is that we are reaffirming that it is the united, eternal capital of Israel.
“I bow my head and salute” the Israeli forces “who brought us to this day,” he said.