Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently provided representatives of the Middle East Quartet with a new proposal on borders for a Palestinian state and security arrangements that Israel would be provided in a peace agreement. The Quartet, which is comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, has demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provide a counterproposal, however Israel has refused to do so, saying that any counterproposal should be presented in direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Palestinian proposal was submitted in the context of a timeline suggested by the Quartet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York on September 23, just a short time after Netanyahu delivered a speech to the assembly. The Quartet's timeline called for the Palestinians and Israelis to submit proposals on borders and security issues by January 26 of next year, to serve as opening positions for subsequent negotiations.

About a week after it was issued, Israel welcomed the Quartet's plan. Since then, envoys from the Quartet have come to the region twice for talks with the two sides. According to a senior Israeli official and a senior European diplomat who was briefed on the matter, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Saeb Erekat, presented Quartet representatives with two documents on November 14 that contained the Palestinian proposals.

The European diplomat said President Abbas submitted his proposal early as a demonstration of flexibility and to garner the support of the international community. Abbas also committed to suspending any unilateral steps at the UN until January 26.

The Palestinian document proposing the borders of a Palestinian state is based on the 1967 lines, but also indicates a willingness to swap 1.9 percent of West Bank territory with that of Israel. The second document deals with security arrangements and includes the Palestinians' consent to an international peacekeeping force on the Israeli border and in the Jordan Valley. It also commits the Palestinians to refrain from forging military alliances with countries hostile to Israel, and also to the demilitarization of the West Bank. The proposal, however, would permit the Palestinians to have limited weaponry.

A day after meeting with Erekat, the Quartet delegation met with Netanyahu's representative, Isaac Molho, and told the Israeli that they wished to receive a counterproposal from Israel on both issues by the end of January. Molho replied that Israel would not cooperate with this approach, saying the Quartet should instead get the Palestinians to return to direct talks with Netanyahu rather than conducting negotiations on Israel's behalf. Molho said talks should be direct and confidential.

Both the senior Israeli official and the European diplomat said Netanyahu's response to the Quartet made Israel look recalcitrant, and made the Palestinians appear to be the party taking the initiative and interested in advancing the peace process. Abbas garnered additional credit for agreeing to suspend Palestinian steps to secure membership status at the UN.

In recent weeks, senior officials from European countries friendly to Israel have urged that Israel submit a counterproposal to the Palestinians by the end of January so it is not blamed by the Quartet for the failure of the effort.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: הפלסטינים הגישו לקוורטט מתווה גבולות למדינה: מוכנים לחילופי שטחים של 1.9%