Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's statement that Israel must maintain a presence in the Jordan valley, a day after Netanyahu made the statement.
Netanyahu had said that the Jewish state must ensure "an efficient way, at the entry and exit points, to stop rockets from being smuggled into the territories close to Israel." This, he said, “will require an Israeli presence on the eastern side of the Palestinian state.”
The PA chairman rejected the idea. “The Palestinian leadership will not accept the presence of a single Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territories after the end of the occupation," Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP on Thursday.
Netanyahu has long said that any PA state formed under the terms of a future agreement would have to be demilitarized.
"We will not accept anything less than a completely sovereign Palestinian state on all the territories with its own borders, resources and airspace," Abu Rudeina said. “We will not accept any Israeli presence, either military or civilian, on our land, and we will not accept that our state be under Israeli protection," he emphasized.
Abu Rudeina said that Netanyahu's insistence on an Israeli border presence would "place more obstacles in the way of restarting peace talks."
The dispute erupted as US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell made his latest visit to the region. It seemed to push back prospects of restarting negotiations between Israel and the PA. Israel has unilaterally frozen construction of new homes by Jews in Judea and Samaria for a 10-month period in order to coax the PA back into the talks.
The PA said it would not return to negotiations without a complete halt of Jewish settlement growth, including in eastern Jerusalem.