Saturday, January 23, 2010

Netanyahu demands Israeli presence in West Bank
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 20, 2010

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel must have a
presence in the West Bank to stop rockets from being imported even after a
peace agreement is achieved, the first time he has spelled out such a

He said the experience of rocket attacks from the Lebanese and Gaza borders
means Israel must be able to prevent such weapons from being brought into
any future Palestinian entity in the West Bank.

"We cannot afford to have that across from the center of our country," he
told foreign reporters Wednesday in Jerusalem.

"In the case of a future settlement with the Palestinians, this will require
an Israeli presence on the eastern side of a prospective Palestinian state,"
he said, without elaborating.

Until recent months, Netanyahu hesitated to refer to the concept of a
Palestinian state and has not outlined how much, if any, of the West Bank he
would be willing to give up.

"We are surrounded by an ever-growing arsenal of rockets placed in the
Iranian-supported enclaves to the north and to the south," he said,
referring to Lebanon and Gaza.

Under the current situation, Israel is in overall control of the West Bank
and its borders, though the Palestinian Authority patrols main population

Netanyahu outlined the defensive systems Israel is developing to knock down
incoming rockets, but he admitted that they are "prohibitively expensive."
He said that Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza get their rockets from
neighboring countries, and that must be stopped.

Palestinians want to create an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza
Strip and east Jerusalem with no Israeli presence, military or civilian.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has proposed that the Obama
administration negotiate the final borders of a Palestinian state with
Israel, a Palestinian official said Wednesday, as a US envoy headed to the
region for another attempt to restart Mideast peace talks.

Such a proxy arrangement could provide a way around the current deadlock
over reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks, which broke off more than a year
ago. Abbas said he won't return to the table without a complete Israeli
settlement freeze, something Netanyahu has refused to do.

As an alternative, US officials could replace Palestinian negotiators in
border talks with Israel, said an Abbas aide, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the content of internal
meetings. The US negotiators would be given clear parameters, the aide said.

Abbas made the proposal in recent meetings with Egyptian officials who
passed the idea along to Washington, the aide said. It was not clear how the
Americans reacted.

Officials at the US Consulate in Jerusalem, which serves the West Bank, had
no comment.

Netanyahu did not refer to the proposal at his Wednesday news conference.

Abbas is expected to discuss his proposal with Obama's Mideast envoy, George
Mitchell, who was to arrive in Israel later Wednesday. Mitchell is to hold
separate talks with Netanyahu and Abbas on Thursday and Friday.

At the news conference, Netanyahu also appealed for tough international
sanctions against Iran. He said there is "wide acceptance" of Israel's view
that Iran poses a strategic threat because of its nuclear program.

"The question is, is there a willingness to act. We will soon find out," he

Netanyahu did not refer to the possibility that Israel or others might
attack Iran militarily. Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is
peaceful, but Israel, the US and others suspect that Iran is constructing
nuclear weapons.

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