A document drafted by Israeli officials in recent years, which details the framework for peace negotiations with Palestinians, appears to indicate a willingness for significant compromises by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yedioth Ahronoth revealed Friday.
According to the document, Netanyahu agreed to negotiate a peace deal on the basis of the 1967 borders, with land swaps; to acknowledge Palestinian aspirations in East Jerusalem; to evacuate settlers from the West Bank; and to allow those who so choose to remain under Palestinian rule.
The paper, according to Yedioth, was the result of secret talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that took place during Netanyahu’s previous term as premier between 2009-2013. Those negotiations — between Netanyahu’s emissary Yitzhak Molcho and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s confidant Hussein Agha — attempted to draw up the framework for more comprehensive peace talks.
“The sides agree that Palestine will be an independent and sovereign state in a sustainable territory which will correspond to the size of the territory controlled by Egypt and Jordan before the 4th of June 1967,” the script states.
“The agreement for the establishment of Palestine will resolve all final-status issues, including the issue of settlements. Israelis who choose to remain in their homes in the state of Palestine will live under Palestinian law,” it continues. “There will be a complete withdrawal in stages of Israeli forces from the territory of Palestine. The last Israeli forces will evacuate when the final stage of the agreement comes into effect.”
The document does not accept East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine — nor would it, before negotiations had even begun — but it does state that “any solution must take into account the historical, social, cultural and emotional connections of the two peoples to the city, as well as protect the holy sites.”
Yedioth also reported that the document “opened the way” for a limited Palestinian “right of return” on an individual basis, though no direct quotes were immediately available. The “right of return” refers to the rights of descendants of former Arab residents of today’s Israel to return to their homes.
Asked to respond by the newspaper, the Prime Minister’s Office stated: “At no point did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to a return to the 1967 borders, to the partition of Jerusalem, or to the right of return. That has been — and remains — his position.
“The conversations of Yitzhak Molcho were conducted with American involvement and did not lead to any agreements. They dealt with an American attempt to restart negotiations, with each side reserving the right to oppose certain clauses.
“Throughout the years, many drafts have been tabled without an agreement being reached on any of them, and even if such an American draft resolution was being considered, the prime minister made it clear in advance that he would oppose the clauses that do not adhere to his positions.”
Following the release of the Yedioth story, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett called on right-wingers to vote for him in the March 17 election, vowing that he would “not give away a centimeter of the Land of Israel.”
Bennett wrote on his Facebook page: “We are on the way to the establishment of a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem. We can stop this. The party needs lots of votes to prevent this.”