Netanyahu Agreed to Withdraw to '67 Lines, Document Confirms

An August 2013 document published in Yedioth Ahronoth over the weekend confirms a previous Haaretz expose; Netanyahu calls report 'nonsense.'

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Obama watches Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas as they shake hands at a trilateral meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Sept. 25, 2009.
Obama watches Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas as they shake hands at a trilateral meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Sept. 25, 2009.Credit: Bloomberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to significant concessions to the Palestinians, including a withdrawal to 1967 lines and a resolution to the refugee issue, according to an August 2013 document published over the weekend in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, which confirms a previous Haaretz expose.

The document details a number of topics that Netanyahu's representative Isaac Molho negotiated with Hussein Agha, purportedly the representative for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The document, called, "A Proposed Document of Principles Regarding the Conflict," was supposed to constitute the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that took place in 2013. "The sides agree that the purpose of their efforts it to bring an end to the conflict," the document read in part, "and they share the vision of two states for two peoples."

The document also discusses the borders of a future Palestinian state, saying "the new and secure borders between Israel and Palestine will be negotiable and based on '67 lines with mutually agreed land swaps."

It also touches on a solution to Jerusalem, writing "Any solution to the subject of Jerusalem must consider the deep historic, religious, cultural and emotional ties of each people to the city."

On the Palestinian refugee issue, the document states, "For a limited time and based on humanitarian needs, Israel may agree to resettle some refugees in its territory."

The document also raises the possibility that Israeli settlers who wish to remain in the West Bank could do so "under Palestinian authority and with equal rights." It also discusses security arrangements in the Jordan Valley and Palestinian control over its border with Jordan and Egypt.

Professor Hussein Agha, the apparent negotiator for Abbas, is a Lebanese academic who is a confidant of the Palestinian president. He was named as the negotiator with whom Molho held "secret backchannel talks" in London in 2013 while official U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian talks were also ongoing between then Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Molho and Agha held several meetings between 2010 and 2011, which also included American diplomat Dennis Ross, then President Obama's senior adviser on the Middle East. Molho and Ross knew Agha from various positions he filled in the 1990s and knew he was close to Abbas. Talks between Molho and Agha continued even after Ross left the Obama administration.

Then, it was revealed that Agha didn’t have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of Abbas, and it remains unclear why Molho and Ross believed he was an official representative for the Palestinian Authority.

Some six months ago, Haaretz published details of the intensive negotiations from the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks brokered by John Kerry that took place between December 2013 and March 2014. These included the framework agreement meant to resolve all of the core issues of the conflict. Conversations with members of the Israeli negotiating team laid out the positions that Netanyahu presented to Kerry and that appeared in the last draft of the document.

Netanyahu, in a first, agreed that talks would be based on the 1967 lines with land swaps, meaning he would be willing to withdraw from more than 90 percent of the West Bank. As for refugees, Israel proposed creating a special system by which individual requests from Palestinians would be examined in an individual or humanitarian basis. Netanyahu refused to include any mention of Jerusalem as the two states' shared capital, but was ready to accept wording that referred to future aspirations on the subject or a general sentence about not being able to resolve the conflict without solving the status of Jerusalem.

Senior Israeli and American officials involved in the talks claim that despite the breakdown of peace talks, the framework document they worked on remains relevant. The officials suggest the document may be reintroduced at a later date, before Obama ends his second term. It will either serve as a starting point for renewed talks or as the basis for a peace agreement put forward by the Americans.

Netanyahu on Friday responded to the report in Yedioth Ahronoth, calling it "a bunch of nonsense."

"I never agreed to divide Jerusalem," he said at a conference of Likud voters in Yehud. "I never agreed to return to '67 lines, I never agreed to recognize the right of return and I never agreed to forgo out presence in the Jordan Valley. Never." Netanyahu called the report another "trick" before the election on the part of Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon "Noni" Mozes.

The Prime Minister's Office responded, "The discussions held by attorney Isaac Molho with American involvement didn’t bear any agreements. They dealt with an attempt to create an American proposal to restart peace talks, in which both sides could express reservations about clauses they disagreed with."

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