Soldiers clearing a minefield
IDF soldiers clearing a minefield in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Israel Defense Forces must maintain its presence along the length of the Jordan Valley in any future peace arrangement reached with the Palestinians, as a safeguard against rocket attacks.

The Jordan River is Israel's security border, Netanyahu told soldiers during a tour of the area. "Israel's line of defense begins here," he said. "If rockets and missiles break out here, they will reach Tel Aviv, Haifa and all over the state."

Netanyahu is considering a plan to cooperate with the Palestinians on the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, as part of an interim peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority that would be implemented immediately, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said last week.

Netanyahu's decision to consider changing his strategy, which he said in recent consultations with advisers was spurred by the recent anti-government protests in the Arab world, is a step back from his previous statement that he wants to attempt to reach a final-status agreement within a year.

"The Palestinians aren't ready to reach a final-status agreement to end the conflict, in light of the instability in the region," Netanyahu reportedly said.

The PMO sources said that at the same time that Netanyahu would be pursuing an interim peace deal, Israel and the PA would negotiate the principles of a future final-status agreement and the Palestinians would receive guarantees regarding the permanent borders of a Palestinian state.

"We don't want to evade a final-status agreement, but an interim agreement is the way to get there," a PMO official said.

The details of the plan Netanyahu is considering are not yet clear. It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu is genuinely interested in moving forward with the peace process or is floating a trial balloon with the expectation that the Palestinians will reject the proposal, bolstering the "no partner" claim.

The PMO proposal appears to be based on plans by the head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has proposed a long-term interim arrangement under which a Palestinian state would be established with temporary borders on 45 percent to 50 percent of the West Bank.

Mofaz has recommended the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders on 60 percent of the West Bank, along with an Israeli commitment that the borders would eventually be aligned with those that preceded the 1967 Six-Day War.