Arab leaders have rejected Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s proposal to turn over most of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority.
Barak said in an interview with the Hebrew language Yisrael HaYom newspaper that the time has come to unilaterally declare a Palestinian Authority state in Judea and Samaria except for major Jewish population centers, which he named as Gush Etzion communities, Maaleh Adumim and Ariel.
Barak also said Israel would maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley and on hills in Samaria that overlook strategic sites, such as Ben Gurion Airport.
Rejection of the plan by the Palestinian Authority was certain, and Likud Minister Dan Meridor noted that Barak's proposal was an attempt for political survival. The Defense Minister bolted the Labor Party earlier this year and formed his new Independence party, which will barely win enough votes to be represented in the next Knesset, according to polls.
Among PA leaders shooting down Barak’s plan was PLO executive committee member Wasel Abu Yousef, who told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency, "It seems as if they're talking about a temporary state based on small separated areas whose valleys are controlled by Israel … they are avoiding talking about Jerusalem and the wall which is confiscating Palestinian lands and giving legitimacy to settlements.”
He charged that Barak is trying to obstruct PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ effort to win recognition from the United Nations General Assembly, which probably will grant it non-member observer status.
Abu Yousef added that PA Arabs would reject the withdrawal plan.
“Secretary-General of the Palestinian People's Party Bassam al-Salhi said Barak's proposal was a continuation of Israel's expansionist project, started in 1948, which aimed to destroy the possibility of a Palestinian state,” wrote Ma'an.
Nationalists Knesset Members, including Likud Cabinet ministers Dan Meridor and Moshe Ya’alon, rejected Barak’s proposal out of hand.
The Palestinian Authority’s rejection is far from surprising, particularly since it rejected even larger surrenders of Judea and Samaria by Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he was in office.