'Likud Will Support Transfer of Some West Bank Land to Palestinians'

Speaking with Army Radio, Deputy PM Dan Meridor says it is in Israel's interests to thwart a global recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party would support the transfer of more West Bank land to Palestinian Authority control, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told Army Radio on Monday, calling such a move a vital Israeli interest.

Meridor's comments came following recent reports by sources in the Prime Minister's Office, according to which the premier was preparing to announce a new peace initiative, perhaps even during an upcoming U.S. visit.

Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor during his tour of the West Bank settlement of Efrat
Haggai Offen

Perhaps hinting at the possible contents of Netanyahu's reported proposal, Meridor told Army Radio on Monday that he believed the prime minister would be able to win a vote on Israel transferring more of the West Bank to PA control in his Likud party.

The deputy PM added that he felt that such transfer of land to PA control would also garner the support of both the cabinet and the people.

"It is an Israeli interest of the highest degree," Meridor said, adding that if Israel didn't take the initiative, the "entire world could recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders."

Meridor added that the Palestinian goal of a state within 1967 borders was "unacceptable," since the "world had already recognized that the main settlement blocs in Judean and Samaria would stay in Israeli hands."

However, fellow Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely rejected Meridor's assessment, saying that his comments were "unacceptable to most of the Likud."

"It would be unthinkable to relinquish parts of our country and repeat the mistakes of the past," a statement by Hotovely said.

Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that a peace agreement with the Palestinians does not stand in contradiction with Israel's security needs, saying that immediate action needed to be taken to advance peace efforts.

"A permanent agreement has a chance only if Israel would be willing to clearly say what would come after it," Barak told Israel Radio on Monday, adding that "a peace agreement and Israel's security interests do no stand in contradiction."

Last week, Haaretz learned that Netanyahu was considering announcing his peace plan in a speech in the coming weeks. One of the ideas being considered is that Netanyahu would speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Referring to the planned speech, that would take place during the premier's May visit to the United Sates, Barak said: "A speech before Congress by the prime minister in May is much too late. Action was needed in coming weeks."