President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are formulating yet another peace plan. It begins with the formation of a demilitarized Palestinian Authority state in half of Judea and Samaria, and ends within two years with a PA state of double that size. The PA has not accepted the plan.
The Maariv newspaper reports that according to the new initiative, Israel will provide the PA with two guarantees: That the negotiations will be completed within 18-24 months, and that at the end of this period, the PA will control territory equivalent to the area of Judea, Samaria and Gaza captured by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967. Presumably, Israel will have to give away some of its sovereign land in the Halutza-Negev area to make up for some of Judea and Samaria that it will retain.
Israel will also receive a guarantee: A letter formally recognizing its character as a Jewish state, which heads off the Arab demand for millions of descendants of refugees from before the establishment of Israel in 1948 to enter Israel. In addition, Israel will receive security guarantees, including the demilitarization of the PA state.
Within Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inner circle of seven, it is not clear if the plan has a majority. Ministers Barak and Meridor are in favor, while Ministers Lieberman, Yaalon and Begin oppose; assuming Netanyahu is in favor, the deciding vote lies with Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas.
The Americans, for their part, are reported to be skeptical as to whether the plan is workable.
Assuming the large settlement blocs remain in place if the plan is implemented, the future of tens of thousands of Jews in smaller Judea and Samaria communities still remains in doubt.