Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Gavriel Fiske / The Times of Israel & Associated Press & YNet News – 2014-02-07 00:55:08
Reports: Israel Would Allow 90 Percent of West Bank to Go to Palestine
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 6, 2014) — Details of the closed-door negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority suggest the two sides are much closer together than previously indicated, with the two sides just â€œpercentage pointsâ€ away on land swaps.
Israel is looking to annex 10 percent of the West Bank in the deal, while the PA is said to be favoring a deal that caps the annexations at 3 percent, with land exchanges.
3 percent or 10 percent isnâ€™t as big a difference as it sounds, as either would encompass the vast majority of Israelâ€™s settlements. Some of the settlement blocs south of Jerusalem are apparently agreed to by both sides, while some others are still in dispute.
The suggestion of an independent Palestine including 90 percent of the West Bank is hugely promising, with discussion of them also getting some land in the Negev, bordering the Gaza Strip, as part of the settlement of the refugee issue.
On the other hand, Israel has coalition partners threatening to withdraw and collapse the coalition if they get close to such a deal. The discussion of percentages in the West Bank also didnâ€™t include the question of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians envision as their future capital and which Israel has already annexed outright.
Israel Said Willing to Give Up 90% of West Bank
Gavriel Fiske / The Times of Israel
(February 6, 2014) — he closed-door negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over the future contours of a Palestinian state, and how much land and settlements Israel will retain, have reportedly come down to a matter of a few percentage points, with both sides agreeing in principle that the majority of Jewish West Bank settlements would be transferred to Israeli sovereignty in a final status deal.
Citing anonymous Israeli, Palestinian and American sources close to the negotiations, Walla News reported on Thursday that Israel is seeking to annex about 10 percent of the West Bankâ€™s land area in a final deal. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are seeking to have Israel annex only around 3% of the West Bank, the report said.
Some 70-80% of Jewish West Bank settlements will be transferred to Israel whether Israel retains 10% or 3% of West Bank land, the report noted. According to a source on the American side, â€œit is clearâ€ that Israel is â€œwilling in principle to give upâ€ control of 90% of the West Bank.
According to both Israeli and Palestinian officials cited in the report, the Palestinians have agreed to Israelâ€™s annexation of the Gush Etzion bloc, just south of Jerusalem, but are arguing over the settlements of Efrat and Migdal Oz, which lie east of Route 60, a major north-south road running between Nazareth and Beersheba, through Jerusalem, Hebron and much of the West Bank.
Israel is seeking to also retain several of the smaller communities in the immediate area of Maâ€™ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem, but the Palestinians have been opposed to such a move, the report said. Israel has said in the past it expects to keep control of the city of Maâ€™ale Adumim.
Both sides have reportedly agreed that the settlements that lie more or less along the 1967 border will be annexed by Israel, as will Givat Zeâ€™ev, just north of Jerusalem. More-isolated Jewish settlements, such as Beit El, Ofra and others in the Samaria region, are not slated to be annexed, but Israel is reportedly seeking a long-term lease agreement for those communities.
The report did not touch on the issue of East Jerusalem, which Israel formally annexed in 1980, a move not recognized by the international community. The Palestinians seek to create their capital in the eastern part of the city, but the area is also home to several large Jewish neighborhoods, such as Gilo, Pisgat Zeâ€™ev and Har Homa, which Israel is unlikely to consider parting with.
The future of settlements such as Ariel and Karnei Shomron in the northern West Bank is unclear, as the Palestinians are said to be extremely opposed to their annexation by Israel. It is supremely important for the PA to create â€œa contiguous Palestinian stateâ€ with sensible borders, and it will not agree to â€œa state whose map will be broken,â€ according to sources cited in the report.
The report noted that Israel seeks to â€œretain a presenceâ€ in Hebron, but there was no mention of the status of Kiryat Arba, a major settlement just outside the city, or any of the smaller Jewish communities in the surrounding area.
Israel has offered land adjacent to the southern West Bank, inside of Israel proper and not far from Hebron, as well as an area near Bet Sheâ€™an, in exchange for the West Bank areas to be annexed. Israel has also raised the possibility of monetary compensation and other forms of economic assistance in exchange for the annexed territories, the report said.
The Americans are also attempting to persuade the two sides to agree to the creation of a â€œsafe roadâ€ linking the West Bank and Gaza, but that idea, which has been raised before during previous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, is complicated by the security situation in the Strip, which is controlled by Islamic terror group Hamas.
Israel is not opposed to the idea, an official said, but its implementation depends on â€œdevelopments in Gaza.â€ If such a deal were agreed upon by the two sides, the official noted, it would create massive pressure on Hamas to comply with a general peace agreement.
The fate of the Jewish West Bank settlements was at the backdrop of a high-profile spat last week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home party leader, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
Bennett reacted publicly to comments by an official to The Times of Israel saying the prime minister was insisting that Jewish West Bank settlers be given the option to remain in their homes under Palestinian rule, following the signing of a peace deal.
Bennett dismissed the idea out of hand, and said that history â€œwonâ€™t forgiveâ€ an Israeli leader who relinquished parts of the Land of Israel under a peace deal. The row led to a short-lived coalition crisis. Bennett later partially apologized for his remarks, but did not change his position.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to present in the near future the so-called â€œframework agreement,â€ a nonbinding document intended to outline a final-status agreement, the principles of which have been agreed upon by the two sides.
Israel Doubled West Bank Demolitions in 2013
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 6, 2014) — A new report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows Israeli demolitions in the occupied West Bank not only continued apace in 2013, but actually doubled over the previous year.
The report detailed 390 homes and other structures in the occupied Jordan Valley, the eventual border between an independent Palestine and Jordan, were destroyed by the Israeli government, displacing some 600 residents.
Israel has expressed opposition to the idea of Palestine having a border with anybody, and has suggested that it wants a permanent military occupation of the Jordan Valley, and potentially outright annexation, in any deal.
The intention for Palestinian officials is to dramatically increase farming in the Jordan Valley once independent to cover food needs for the population increase that returning refugees would mean. Israel has been strictly preventing any construction in the area, however, and noted that the demolished homes were built without a permit from the military.
UN Reports Rise in Israel Demolitions in West Bank
Associated Press & YNet News
(February 6, 2014) — Israel demolished 390 shacks and other structures in the West Bank’s strategic Jordan Valley in 2013, displacing nearly 600 Palestinians, twice as many as the year before, a UN agency said Thursday.
The fate of the valley is a sticking point in US-led negotiations that seek to produce a deal on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The Palestinians want that state to include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967.
The Jordan Valley would form the eastern border of a Palestinian state with Jordan.
Israel seeks a long-term military presence in the valley even after any deal, citing security concerns, including the possible influx of weapons and militants from the east. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would consider a gradual Israeli troop withdrawal from a Palestinian state over five years, but not longer
Palestinians say they need the sparsely populated valley as the breadbasket of their future state and for resettling Palestinian refugees who would return from exile. Israel has sharply restricted Palestinian development in the valley, critics say, maintaining control over most of the land in the area.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Israel demolished 390 Palestinian-owned structures in the valley in 2013, up from 172 the year before. Some 590 Palestinians were displaced last year, compared to 279 in 2012, the agency said.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the demolitions, but Israel has said in the past it demolishes structures set up without permits.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, a Palestinian district official, Ghassan Daghlas, said about 100 olive trees were damaged in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday in an alleged attack by militant settlers near the village of Yanoun.
On the outskirts of another village, Qusra, militant settlers, some of them masked and armed, approached Palestinian farmers working their land Thursday and demanded that they leave, said village resident Ahmed Talat. A scuffle ensued, he said. The military arrived, Palestinians threw stones and soldiers fired tear gas, Talat said.
The military said soldiers dispersed the stone-throwers. It had no immediate comment on the alleged settler attack near Yanoun.
Also Thursday, the EU foreign policy chief urged Israel to reverse its decision to approve building permits for 558 apartments in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem. Municipal planners approved the permits Wednesday.
“These plans could put at risk the prospects of Jerusalem becoming the capital of two states and, in particular, the territorial contiguity between east Jerusalem and the southern West Bank,” Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Israel’s government had no immediate comment.
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