Kadima Proposes Handing Judea and Samaria to Europe
A member of PM Ehud Olmert's Kadima party proposed transferring control of Judea and Samaria to a European task force until the establishment of a Palestinian state.
By Aaron Klein, World Net Daily
First Publish: 1/25/2007, 7:20 PM / Last Update: 1/25/2007, 9:16 PM
Following the establishment of the state, the strategic territory would be handed to security forces associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The proposal comes after WND broke the story earlier this week according to top European and Egyptian diplomatic sources Israel has been conducting behind-the-scene negotiations to hand over most of Judea and Samaria to Abbas' security forces. The sources said the transfer of security control to Abbas would be coordinated by the European Union and Jordan.
Judea and Samaria encompass Jerusalem and are within rocket-firing range of Tel Aviv and Israel's international airport.
At Israel's prestigious Herzliya Conference, Knesset Member Shlomo Breznitz, reportedly a close confidante of Olmert, said the Judea and Samaria should be temporarily transferred to the Europeans and that most of the territory's Jewish communities should be evacuated.
"The only way to get out of the impasse is to transfer the territories, for a limited time, to an international mandate, that will run them until the establishment of a Palestinian state," said Breznitz at the conference.
The Herzliya Conference is attended by Israel's top leadership and regularly maps out the country's agenda for the coming year. In 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his plan to withdraw from Gaza at the conference.
Breznitz told Israel's Maariv daily newspaper the territories should be transferred to the European community and not the United States because, he said, after the invasion of Iraq America "lost its status as an honest broker in the view of the Palestinians and the Arab states."
Breznitz said his proposal received a warm reception from European and Palestinian officials.
"I have reason to believe, and I don't want to expand on this, that the Palestinians will support the proposal. Ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from European countries who were shown the proposal also believe that without international help it will not be possible to resolve the conflict," said Breznitz.
According to the Israel Resource News Agency, Olmert regularly consults with Breznitz and is known to spend vacation time with the Breznitz family.
The Knesset member's plan comes after WND quoted top Egyptian and European diplomatic sources stating Israel and the Palestinians have been conducting behind-the-scenes negotiations in which Israel agreed in principal to hand over most of the West Bank in a deal with Abbas.
It also comes after WND reported the E.U. is in the process of expanding its offices in Israel, including in the PA controlled areas, in anticipation of an increased security role here following what European diplomatic sources say is new momentum regarding an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.
They sources, who said they were directly involved in behind-the-scene negotiations, said one proposal being considered is for the E.U. and Jordan to supervise the transfer of northern Samaria to Abbas' security forces, which reportedly are receiving aid, weapons and training from the U.S.
The sources said major changes in Israeli-Palestinian affairs are expected within a few weeks to two months.
According to an aide to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, speaking on condition of anonymity, there will be a "historic political evolution and movement in negotiations in the next few weeks and few months, unseen since the Camp David peace talks in 2000."
During the Camp David talks, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as well as eastern sections of Jerusalem.
According to the diplomatic sources, still being debated in the purported West Bank negotiations is the role of Hamas, which leads the PA and maintains the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament. Negotiations between Abbas and Hamas leaders for a national unity government have mostly fallen through.
On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said he viewed any Palestinian elements recognizing the state of Israel as a partner for negotiations "even if it is Hamas."
Olmert has made similar comments.
So far, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel but recently offered a 10-year truce with the Jewish state. In a series of interviews this past weekend, Hamas leaders told WND during any 10-year truce period they would build a large Palestinian army and plan for the destruction of Israel.
Olmert's office this week denied the WND reports on negotiations to withdraw from Judea and Samaria.
"There were no negotiations regarding a West Bank withdrawal. This would go contrary to other things we have said in the recent past," said Olmert's spokesperson, Miri Eisin.
"Perhaps the officials talking to WorldNetDaily were referring to general expectations for movement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena," Eisin said.
But the European and Egyptian sources yesterday stood by their statements that Israel agreed in principal to transfer West Bank security control to Abbas.
Israeli leaders previously have denied reports of pending withdrawals only to later carry them out. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected in 2001 on a platform against unilateral withdrawal, at first denied media reports Israel was planning to evacuate the Gaza Strip but later announced his Gaza withdrawal plan.
Olmert was elected prime minister on the platform of carrying out a withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria, but after this summer's Lebanon war, he has stated another withdrawal would not occur.
Olmert in August called the policy of unilateral withdrawal a "failure" and said it was "no longer relevant." But he can argue handing the territory to Abbas in an agreement is not unilateral.
Contradicting Olmert, Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On of Olmert's Kadima party said this summer, "The withdrawal plan is not dead, though its implementation has been postponed. The plan is now on the shelf or in the freezer, but when the time comes it will be accessed."
Several recent public opinion polls showed the majority of Israelis now oppose a withdrawal. The leaders of Egypt and Jordan have expressed reservations about withdrawal plans, fearing terrorism can spill over into their respective countries.
Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. It had occupied a small section of Lebanon's border with Israel following repeated attacks by Palestinian terrorists in the area. Since the withdrawal, Hezbollah has staged numerous attacks against Israel, including rocket bombardments of civilian population centers, raids against military outposts and ambushes and kidnappings of Israeli troops. Hezbollah built an arsenal in south Lebanon of more than 13,000 short- and medium-range rockets capable of hitting central sections of the Jewish state
Israel withdrew last August from Gaza. Since then, rockets have been fired almost daily into nearby Jewish communities, Hamas has been elected to power and both Israeli and Palestinian officials have stated al-Qaida has infiltrated the territory. Israel says the Palestinians have smuggled hundreds of tons of heavy weaponry into Gaza and are preparing for a large-scale confrontation.