Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London, September 11, 2013. Photo by AP
Text size

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he is willing to accept Israeli military presence in the West Bank for a transition period of three years, as part of a peace agreement with Israel.

In an interview on Tuesday with the Independent Palestinian News Agency Ma'an that was broadcast at the Institute for National Security Studies conference and reported on by the New York Times, Abbas said “the borders of the Palestinian state will eventually be in the hands of Palestinians, not the Israeli army" and, as such, anyone who speaks of a transition period lasting a decade isn't serious.

Abbas added that he would be willing to have a third party assume responsibility for security after an Israeli withdrawal in order to "soothe our concerns and Israel's" and suggested NATO as an appropriate entity.

Gilead Sher, a former Israeli peace negotiator who interviewed Abbas on behalf of the INSS, said his comments present "an opening" for Israel and stressed the importance of formulating a framework for a transition period between the signing of an agreement and its implementation.

The Palestinians have rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Israel have exclusive security control in the Jordan Valley, the right to pursue terrorists throughout the future Palestinian state, and that Israel Defense Forces troops remain in the Jordan Valley until the Palestinians have met the test of implementation of the security agreement.

Abbas has told Kerry the Palestinians would accept a shared arrangement with Israel and Jordan for three years following the peace agreement.

Earlier at the INSS conference Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the Palestinian Authority cannot be trusted when it comes to security. Ya’alon noted that last year the Palestinian Authority arrested more than 1,000 people associated with Hamas in the West Bank, but none were ever brought to trial.

“As long as they educate 3-year-old children at ceremonies to wear explosives belts and when Israel doesn’t appear on their maps, there is no prospect for peace,” Ya’alon said.

Asked what his administration was doing to maintain West Bank calm, Abbas said: "All the security forces are devoted to performing their duty to prevent arms smuggling and their use within the Palestinian Authority or Israel."

A U.S. official briefed on the West Bank situation was hard put to explain the disagreement between Abbas and Yaalon.

"It's true that we haven't seen trials" of Palestinian suspects held by Abbas' administration, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. But, the official said, that did not mean there was no Palestinian security enforcement.
Asked if that meant Abbas's forces might be dealing with suspects away from public view, the U.S. official said "yes".

With the peace talks at a virtual standstill, two surveys, by the INSS and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), released on Tuesday found that 67 percent of Israelis and 70 percent of Palestinians do not believe a permanent peace accord can be reached.

The INSS poll surveyed 1,200 Israeli Jews, while 1,270 Palestinians were interviewed by the PSR in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Both polls have a margin of error of 3 percent.