Netanyahu: First Security; Borders Only Afterwards
Just two days after the U.S. announcement that the PA had agreed to direct talks, many issues still remain unresolved - such as where the talks will be held, who will participate, and what they will deal with. Sources in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office emphasize that the talks will deal first with final-status security arrangements, and only afterwards with the borders and Israel’s territorial concessions.
The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, says the talks must be comprehensive and deal with all matters in dispute.
Many security experts in Israel have reiterated that Netanyahu’s insistence on a demilitarized Palestinian state is critical for Israel’s existence. At a recent JCPA conference, for instance, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze’evi Farkash explained the importance of the demilitarization of a Palestinian entity, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel elaborated on the need for Israel’s control of the airspace over Judea and Samaria, and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror said that modern international history has shown that peacekeeping forces generally leave when one side attacks and cannot guarantee peace.
The PA has also implied that it will not participate in the talks if the freeze on Jewish construction, which is due to expire on Sept. 26, is not extended. Netanyahu and other government leaders have said many times that the expiration date is final.
Despite the uncertainty, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that she believes the talks “can be completed within one year.” In addition, the opening “White House Lawn” ceremony has also been planned; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Hussein have been invited to take part in the talks’ opening ceremony with Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas on Wednesday, September 1, a day before the actual talks are to begin.