Netanyahu Mulls Interim Agreement With Palestinians

Part of deal would include establishment of Palestinian state in provisional borders; Netanyahu hesitating to alter declared policy of permanent settlement agreement within a year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a number of meetings with advisers recently in which ideas were raised for a program that would lead to an interim settlement with the Palestinians. Part of the deal would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in provisional borders.

Haaretz has learned that Netanyahu is hesitating to alter his declared policy of reaching a permanent settlement agreement within a year.

Peace talks AP 2.9.2010

On Friday, Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama's adviser, Dennis Ross, and with the deputy of Special Envoy George Mitchell, Fred Hoff, to discuss the impasse on the Palestinian track.

Netanyahu has not decided whether to shift policy and move toward an interim agreement because of concerns that if Israel proposes such an idea, the Palestinians will immediately reject it.

The prime minister seems to prefer the United States make such a proposal to the Palestinians as a way of breaking through the impasse, and so that the Palestinians would agree to at least discuss the possibility.

At this stage Washington is skeptical about the move and there is no enthusiasm for adopting it.

The Prime Minister's Bureau refused to comment.

Haaretz reported yesterday Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman drafted a plan for setting up a Palestinian state within provisional borders on 40-50 percent of West Bank territory.

The forum of seven senior ministers met yesterday to discuss the Palestinian issue but it is unclear whether Lieberman raised his idea during the meeting.

Senior U.S. officials expressed interest in the Lieberman plan, but also doubts as to the willingness of the Palestinians to discuss it.

"The fact that Lieberman is the one putting the matter forth will make it difficult to market to anyone in the Arab world," a senior U.S. official said.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Lieberman's plan in an interview with Army Radio yesterday, calling it a "joke." Erekat added that "if the Israelis look ahead they can see a Palestinian state coming, and there is nothing they can do about it."

Meanwhile, Lieberman departed yesterday for visits to Britain and Portugal. He is expected to discuss his provisional border plan.

In London, Lieberman will meet his British counterpart William Hague, National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts, and members of the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Lieberman is expected to ask the British to expedite proposed legislation aimed at keeping groups from filing charges against visiting Israelis for alleged war crimes.

In Lisbon, Lieberman will meet with his Portuguese counterpart, Luis Amado, the speaker of Portugal's parliament, the chairman of their foreign affairs committee, and with pro-Israel parliamentarians.

Portugal is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and Lieberman will ask that Lisbon will not sign resolutions forwarded by the Palestinians at the UN.

"Unilateral Palestinian resolutions will not bring about a solution to the conflict but will exacerbate it," Lieberman has said.