Prime Minister Benjamin 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 on Tuesday.
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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.
Representatives of the Quartet for Mideast peace - the European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States - will meet today in Brussels to discuss possible methods of renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israeli and Palestinian officials were invited to the meeting, but Netanyahu has decided not to send any Israeli representatives, reportedly because he views it as an attempt to forcibly impose an international initiative on him.
Saeb Erekat, who recently quit as head of the Palestinian negotiating team, will be representing the Palestinians.
Netanyahu told the Quartet that he would send his envoy for the peace process, Isaac Molho, only if there would be direct talks between Molho and Erekat, but the Palestinians would only agree to indirect talks.
Netanyahu tried to receive guarantees from the Obama administration about the meeting's objectives and the statement that would be released afterward, but didn't get anywhere. He was about to announce that he was boycotting the summit altogether, but Quartet representatives said in a last-minute compromise that they would come to Jerusalem next week and meet with Molho there.
"The moment there were no direct talks, there was no reason to fly out there," said a source in the PMO.
Diplomat retires in protest
Longtime diplomat Ilan Baruch, who recently served as Israel's ambassador to South Africa, has taken early retirement to protest the government's policies, specifically those of Lieberman.
"In the last two years, diplomatic and political messages have been made clearer to the leaders of the country, messages that outrage me and don't give me rest," Baruch wrote in his resignation letter. "I find it difficult to represent and explain them with integrity."