JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel wants to keep troops on the West Bank’s border with Jordan even after the formation of a Palestinian state, its prime minister said.
Benjamin Netanyahu made the statement during a news conference with foreign reporters Wednesday, just hours before the arrival in Israel of U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell. The Israeli leader said the presence was necessary to prevent weapons being smuggled into the new state and to prevent rockets from being fired at Israel.
Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected the idea Thursday during an interview on Israel Radio.
"The borders of the state of Palestine will be Jordan," he said. "The Jordan Valley is ours, is Palestine. Why do they insist on being on our territory?"
"The Palestinian leadership will not accept the presence of a single Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territories after the end of the occupation," Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told the French news agency AFP. "We will not accept anything less than a completely sovereign Palestinian state on all the territories with its own borders, resources and airspace."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mitchell in a meeting Thursday in Tel Aviv talked about advancing the political process with the Palestinians. Mitchell was scheduled to meet later in the day with Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Erekat also denied news reports that the Palestinian Authority had asked the United States to negotiate a final peace settlement with Israel on its behalf.