Report: Netanyahu Offered Palestinians Major Concessions in Secret Peace Talks

Concessions included evacuation of large number of settlements, limited right of return for refugees; PM's office says document was U.S. proposal rejected by Israel.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Reuters
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Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered major concessions to the Palestinians on core issues during his second term in office (2009-2013) - including land swaps, a guarded recognition of Palestinian claims on East Jerusalem and a limited right of return for Palestinian refugees - according to a report published Friday in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Nahum Barnea wrote that the concessions were contained in a document titled "Draft Proposal for Statement of Principles Towards a Permanent Arraignment," which was penned in August 2013.

However, the Prime Minister's Office said the document was a U.S. proposal that Israel had never accepted. "At no point did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to withdraw to 1967 lines, divide Jerusalem or recognize the Palestinian right of return. That was and remains his position," Netanyahu's office told Yedioth Ahronoth.

The concessions list supposedly summed up the results of secret talks between Isaac Molho, Netanyahu’s envoy for the peace process, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' affiliate, Hussein Agha, the Lebanon-born senior associate of Oxford University's St. Antony's College.

"The sides are in agreement that Palestine will be an independent, sovereign and viable state whose size will be in relation to the areas which were under Jordan and Egypt's control before June 4th 1967 [i.e., prior to the Six-Day War]," Yedioth quoted the document as saying. "The agreement establishing the formation of Palestine will permanently resolve all claims, including the issue of settlements."

Although Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected calls for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, the document reportedly outlined a straight "mile-for-mile" land swap.

The document also contained a framework for removing a large number of settlements from the West Bank, even noting that any Israelis choosing to stay in the new Palestinian state "will live under Palestinian jurisprudence."

Barnea wrote that the document's phraseology on Jerusalem was "more careful," but not "devoid of significance."

The document reportedly stated: "Any solution must address the historical, social, cultural and effectual ties of both peoples to the city and offer protection to the holy sites."

Barnea also noted that, according to the document, Israel "offered Palestinian 'refugees' the right of return on a personal – as opposed to national – basis."

Molho was involved in the most recent round of U.S.-brokered peace talks, along with then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, during Netanyahu's third term as prime minister. These talks ended in April 2014, after Israel failed to release a final tranche of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian Authority announced a reconciliation government with Hamas.

The Obama administration on Thursday declared its intention to make a renewed effort to achieve progress in the Israel-Palestinian peace talks after the Knesset election on March 17. Obama is in office until January 2017. 

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