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Labor to Call for Leasing Settlements From PA

Labor Party chair Amir Peretz's diplomatic team is formulating a platform calling for the long-term leasing of large West Bank settlement blocs from the Palestinians, adopting the model of Great Britain and China with regard to Hong Kong.

The team, which includes former Foreign Ministry director general David Kimche, former minister Uzi Bar-Am, MK Yuli Tamir, Dalia Rabin, former Foreign Ministry official Avi Primor, and former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas, will unveil the platform in the upcoming weeks.

The platform will call for adopting the findings of the Sasson report on illegal outposts. Peretz has said in discussions with the team that the outposts should be dismantled in keeping with the law.

A timetable will be set for final-status talks with the PA, and will not include an interim agreement or a temporary Palestinian state. Peretz has said that a "conditional" state is not the right solution, because violent confrontation would continue. According to the platform, only if negotiations were to fail would unilateral steps be considered. The platform will state that talks will be held with the elected Palestinian leadership, but not with Hamas.

The platform will also declare Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, but will allow for reexamining the status of the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages surrounding the city by raising the issue of municipal boundaries.

The platform's "Hong Kong principle" refers to the agreement between Great Britain and China in 1898, under which Great Britian leased the islands of Hong Kong for 99 years. When the lease ended in 1997, China took back the islands with a pledge to preserve their democracy.

Using this model, the large blocs of settlements, Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel, would remain under Israeli control in exchange for monetary or territorial compensation to the Palestinian state.