2 Aug 2011

Israel ‘ready to discuss border package with Palestinians’

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is ready to open talks for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 truce lines, according to reports, in what is widely being viewed as a significant U-turn.

Benjamin Netanyahu - Reuters

A senior Israeli official told various news organisations that Mr Netanyahu was prepared to help kickstart efforts to renew talks frozen since last year in anticipation of a Palestinian threat to seek a unilateral United Nations mandate for statehood in September.

The news comes just months after he reacted tersely to US President Obama’s vision that a prospective Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza should be drawn along the lines that existed before the 1967 war, in which Israel captured these territories and Jerusalem.

At the time, Mr Netanyahu said that the formation of such a state would leave Israel “indefensible”, leading to a tense meetings in Washington.

But with the news that Mr Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to re-start talks based on the 1967 lines, the Israeli official denied that he had backed down from his previous refusal.

Read more: Saudi and Israeli discomfort with Obama

However, observers of the peace process have responded with scepticism to the development, on the basis of two caveats Mr Netanyahu has apparently said Isreal would require in order to resume talks.

The Palestinians would be asked to cancel their bid for statehood at the UN next month, and recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

As such, critics are questioning whether Mr Netanyahu’s willingness to resume talks is serious, because the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected the demand to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

They argue that to do so would prevent the return of refugees.

Furthermore, the Palestinians say they have not received any offer from Israel relating to the prospect of new talks based on the 1967 lines.

Israeli and western leaders have been concerned that any one-sided step could trigger new violence after months of calm, given the spreading unrest in the Arab world and recent calls by some Palestinians for protests to accompany any statehood bid.