"The territorial issue is the most significant one for the Palestinians" + they will insist on 1967 borders as basis for renewed negotiations

Akiva Eldar has written in Al-Monitor here that “Al-Monitor has learned that the Palestinian leadership decided after internal deliberations to tell Kerry that it would not give up its demand to launch negotiations based on the 1967 borders at any price…The Palestinian leadership’s decision to insist on the 1967 borders as a precondition for renewed negotiations came the day after the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting ended in Jordan on May 27”.

Also today, Shaul Arieli published an article in Haaretz here saying that “The speeches of the leaders at the World Economic Forum in Amman once again attest to the insight that often emerged from the negotiations Israel held with the PLO on a final status agreement: The territorial issue is the most significant one for the Palestinians, while they consider the right of return a bargaining chip”.

Arieli should know. He was an advisor to Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Barak during the Camp David Negotiations, and has since been deeply involved with the Geneva [Civil Society] Initiative and with Israel’s Council on Peace and Security.

Israel HaYom reported here that “On Monday, Abbas told Saudi newspaper Al-Watan that the PA ‘would not return to negotiations’ unless Israel agreed to a settlement freeze and accepted a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. He said Israeli intransigence on this issue was preventing the diplomatic process from moving forward. The PA president told Al-Watan he was committed to east Jerusalem — captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War — as the future capital of the Palestinian state, and that there was ‘no room to compromise’ on this”.

Arieli wrote, in his Haaretz piece, that “Israel has come a long way since Camp David 2000, when Ehud Barak proposed to annex 11 percent of the West Bank to Israel without a territorial swap, while another 7 percent of the area, mainly in the Jordan Valley, was to be acquired for long-term leasing”.

According to Arieli, “Barak’s position was based on the claim that United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 − whose effective interpretation in the peace agreement with Egypt and with Jordan was that ‘all the territories in return for peace’ doesn’t apply to the Palestinians, who were not among the ‘countries in the region’ during the Six-Day War”.

Arieli noted that “The Palestinians, who saw Resolution 242 as a basis for negotiations, insisted on its complete implementation according to the international interpretation, but agreed to be flexible: a territorial exchange at a ratio of 1:1, which would enable Israel to leave most of the Israelis living beyond the Green Line under its sovereignty.
Only in Annapolis in 2008 did then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert adopt the parameter guiding negotiations on the territorial issue: The 1967 lines as a basis, and a 1:1 territorial swap. Olmert proposed a permanent border to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, one that would annex 6.5 percent of the territories and 85 percent of the Israeli settlers to Israel, while compensating Palestine with 5.8 percent of the land within Israeli territory, plus a land corridor between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Abbas, for his part, proposed a 1.9 percent territorial swap, which enables Israel to retain 75 percent of the Israeli settlers under its sovereignty. The previous and present governments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retreated from this parameter, and after zigzagging in clandestine meetings, the prime minister tends to accept the 1967 lines as the basis and even the idea of territorial exchanges − but not in an equal ratio”.

But. Arieli wrote, this whole “land swaps” business has not been realistic, because “the painful truth is that there is no real land potential in Israeli territory for a 1:1 territorial exchange that could fulfill all the declarations, announcements and promises of Netanyahu and his people. They will have to explain how massive government support led to an increase of 250 percent in the number of Israelis in Judea and Samaria in general, and an increase of 350 percent in the number of Israelis outside the settlement blocs in particular. They will have to explain to the kibbutzim and moshavim of the ‘Gaza envelope’ ‏(areas bordering on the Gaza Strip‏), the farmers of the Lachish region in the south, those living in Meitar and in the Arad Valley, the kibbutzim of Emek Hama’ayanot in the north, and others, the logic of the mortal blow to their lands and their orchards − which will be transferred to Palestine in return for ‘laundering’ a long series of illegal outposts and far-flung expansions of existing settlements”…

A solution might be had, Arieli said, if the government presents “a modest proposal of a 3 percent to 4 percent territorial exchange, which makes it possible to leave over 80 percent of Israeli settlers under its sovereignty, and does not undermine the contiguity of the Palestinian state or the future of Israeli communities within the Green Line, some of which were built overnight during the ‘tower and stockade’ period of the British Mandate”…

Eldar, who has been one of the biggest proponents of the Arab Peace Initiative — and who has said that its single biggest flaw, from the Israeli point of view, is its name — wrote that “The day following the Dead Sea conference, where Kerry promised the Palestinians a consolation prize of $4 billion for returning to negotiations that have already been stalled for 20 years, a modest, too modest, conference was held in Tel Aviv about the Arab Peace Initiative…The NGO Israeli Peace Initiative (Yisrael Yozemet), along with the Center for Strategic Dialogue of the Netanya Academic College and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation convened the conference in an attempt to place the Arab initiative on Israel’s public agenda… Aharon Fogel, chairman of the Migdal Insurance Company and former director-general of the Israeli finance ministry, [laid out] the economic advantages of the initiative. According to Fogel, a regional peace agreement will result in a long-term reduction of some NIS 30 billion (around $8 billion) in Israel’s defense expenditure and additional annual growth of 2%”…

Eldar wrote that “By the end of this week, the first in June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) are supposed to present US Secretary of State John Kerry with their positions regarding the renewal of negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative”.

Israel HaYom also reported here that Kerry said in a speech in Washington this week to the American Jewish Congress that “”What happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades. We’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities. And let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now — and I know I’m raising those stakes — but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance. So we can’t let the disappointments of the past hold the future prisoner. We can’t let the absence of peace become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The absence of peace is perpetual conflict … the status quo is simply not sustainable… and cynicism has never solved anything — it has never given birth to a state, and it won’t”…

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