Saturday 16 December 2017

Palestinians accuse Netanyahu of 'PR masterpiece'

Phoebe Greenwood in Ramallah

The Palestinian Authority has dismissed a potential Israeli concession on the borders of a Palestinian state, setting back hopes for a swift resumption of peace talks.

Senior officials were suspicious of claims that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, was prepared to compromise on his opposition to Palestinian sovereignty over the occupied West Bank within its current boundaries.

The suggestion that Mr Netanyahu could countenance, with certain exceptions, an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 ceasefire lines, the borders that existed before the Six Day War, had raised unexpected optimism for a breakthrough after months of stalemate.

But Palestinian officials suggested that he was engaged in a ruse and would never live up to his word.

"When I hear this from Netanyahu's lips, that he will accept an Israeli state along 1967 borders, I will believe it," said Saeb Erekat, a leading Palestinian negotiator. "But what I have read so far is a masterpiece of PR and linguistics.

"Such an important thing deserves that Netanyahu speak to his people in Hebrew, Arabic, English or Chinese, so we can hear him saying that he accepts a two-state solution along the 1967 borders.

"If he cannot do this, then all this is PR and deceit. I'm not saying I disbelieve it, but I want to hear it from his mouth."

Israel took observers by surprise on Monday when it emerged that Mr Netanyahu was prepared to accept a formula using the phraseology of "1967 lines" so hated by the Israeli Right as the basis for resuming negotiations.

Ostensibly, the concession fulfils a key Palestinian demand for the resumption of talks. Palestinians have long insisted that any state of their own must include the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the bulk of the West Bank, land occupied by Israel since the end of the Six-Day War.

Israeli officials say they are prepared to accept a package to be proposed by the United States and its negotiating partners -- the UN, the EU and Russia -- under which talks for the creation of a Palestinian state would be based on the earlier borders.

Israel insists, however, that adjustments would have to be made to allow it to annex some of its larger settlements in the West Bank in exchange for land in Israel. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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