Israel Presents the Palestinians With Its Stance on Borders

For first time, Netanyahu's envoy Isaac Molho outlines for Erekat Israel's basic principles on borders for a future Palestinian state.

Israel presented the Palestinians with its position on borders for a future Palestinian state for the first time on Wednesday, meeting the January 26 deadline set by the Mideast Quartet in September.

Officials told Haaretz that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy, Isaac Molho, presented chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat with Israel's position on borders, but did not give Erekat a document on the matter. Molho's presentation included a series of basic principles, without any maps or percentages of lands slotted to be swapped.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu - AP - 09012012

One of the principles that Molho presented was that in any permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, most of the Israelis who live in the West Bank will remain in Israeli territory, while the Palestinians in the West Bank will be in the area allotted for a future Palestinian state.

Erekat asked Molho for clarifications on his presentation, and Molho told Erekat that he is ready to provide him with answers as soon as possible and to set an additional meeting in the next few days.

In the last meeting between the two, that took place last Saturday, the Palestinians refused to let a senior Israeli officer present the Israeli position on security arrangements. On Wednesday's meeting, Molho told Erekat that Israel will be happy to present its stance on security arrangements in their next meeting, after it had already laid out some of its position on borders, as per the Palestinians' request.

A senior Israeli official involved in the talks said that even though Molho's presentation was preliminary, he did present fundamental principles.

Molho's presentation on borders marks the first time that the Netanyahu government agreed to discuss the territorial issue. However, at this stage, the move is most probably solely a tactical one, meant to pressure the Palestinians and make it harder for them to blame Israel for the collapse of the talks.

On Wednesday, before the meeting between Molho and Erekat, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the talks with Israel end with no results. And even after the meeting, the Palestinians said the meeting brought no new breakthrough and said that in the next few days they will reassess the situation with Arab countries and decide whether to continue the talks.

Meanwhile, intensive international efforts to prevent the failure of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan are continuing. In a phone conversation on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Netanyahu that she is very worried that the talks will be broken off.

A statement from Merkel's office said, "She called on the Israeli Prime Minister to do all he could from his side so that the current process could continue."

"In this context, she informed Netanyahu about Palestinian President Abbas' visit to Berlin last week. She said she had also called on Abbas not to let the current talks come to an end," the statement said.

Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said on Thursday the talks had been helpful for both sides.

“They have clarified some issues. There are some things that they need to work on at home on both sides. And that perhaps a small pause, and then to come back with some fresh ideas will be helpful,” she said.