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With Palestinian statehood bid looming, Israel offers concession to restart talks

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to the 1967 borders as a baseline for peace talks in exchange for Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

By Staff writer / August 3, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Monday, Aug. 1. Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to the 1967 borders as a baseline for peace talks.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to resume peace talks with the Palestinians using pre-1967 borders as a baseline in exchange for Palestinians agreeing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The Israeli prime minister's acquiescence to a demand he has long rejected – most recently at the White House in May – appears to be an effort to head off a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations in September.

The concession is part of a formula being floated in meetings with Israelis, Palestinians, the United States, European Union, and Russia in an attempt to secure a deal that would preclude a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, the Jerusalem Post reports. As part of the deal, Palestinians would accept that the final goal of talks is two states: one Palestinian and one Jewish. That could be problematic for people on both sides: Some 20 percent of citizens in Israel are Arab, and roughly 20 percent of the 2.5 million people living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are Jewish.

Mr. Netanyahu reportedly expressed a willingness to resume border talks on this basis in a closed-door meeting of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defense committee yesterday, according to Al Jazeera. The proposal would be contingent, however, on Palestinians dropping their UN bid.

Palestinian Authority officials, who have expressed skepticism about the reported concession because Netanyahu has not announced it publicly nor contacted them directly, rejected the possibility of giving up their UN bid, however. They said any talk about negotiations was "valueless," the Jerusalem Post reports.

[Chief Palestinian negotiator Saab] Erekat said that reports that Netanyahu has accepted the agreement should be viewed as a publicity stunt.

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