The Prime Minister’s Office has remained silent in the face of a deluge of Palestinian leaks that reportedly outline Israel’s positions in the six rounds of talks held over the last month. According to a report by the Associated Press, Israel suggested the establishment of a Palestinian State with temporary borders, covering 60% of the West Bank. “We have no comment on this," said sources at the Prime Minister’s bureau.
When talks were launched in Washington at the end of July, both sides committed to not leaking reports on the contents or even the dates of their meetings. According to the agreement made with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, only the American side would disclose any details relating to the negotiations.
The bureaus of the Prime Minister and of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is the cabinet Minister responsible for the negotiations, have cast a veil of secrecy over the talks. The Israeli side refuses to divulge even the smallest technical details relating to the talks, both before and after each meeting.
In contrast, the last 24 hours have seen at least four reports on details of the talks, coming from senior Palestinian officials, both unnamed and named.
Israel has proposed leaving intact dozens of Jewish settlements and military bases in the West Bank as part of a package to establish a Palestinian state in provisional borders, a Palestinian official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The Palestinian team said such a proposal is unacceptable. "We said, 'Let's agree on a state based on the 1967 borders first, and then we can agree on having this state in phases."
The Palestinian official said formal talks on borders have not yet started, and that negotiations have focused on security matters. He said the Israelis want to retain control of the West Bank's border with Jordan, keep early-warning stations on hilltops, and retain military bases near the Jordanian border.
"Israel is using the issue of security to take land," he said. "From the general discussions we had in the last couple of weeks, the Israelis have shown no intention to dismantle any settlement." He said the current proposals indicated that Israel would seek to retain control over about 40 percent of the West Bank.
Another senior Palestinian official told the Chinese news agency Xinhua that Israel is unwilling to discuss anything except security arrangements. According to him, Israel presented 17 points that include its security demands. He added that in the course of the talks, a dispute broke out over the refusal of the Palestinians to accept any Israeli military presence within the Palestinian state.
In parallel to the two unnamed sources, two senior Palestinians openly referred to the talks. Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary of the PLO’s Executive Council, told the Palestinian radio station "Voice of Palestine" that the talks have been fruitless, with no progress made so far. According to him, nothing will be achieved without American pressure on Israel.
Nabil Shaath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, also sounded pessimistic in an interview with the Palestinian news agency Ma’an. He said that the talks so far have only dealt with procedural issues and the topics to be discussed in further talks. “All that’s happened for a month and a half is that Israel has presented the topics it wishes to discuss.” According to Shaath, Israel wants to start the negotiations from scratch, without any reference to previous negotiations with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel also insists on maintaining control over the Jordan River and on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, according to Shaath.
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