Interior Minister Gideon Saar (Likud) said on Thursday that Israel will never agree to pull back to the indefensible pre-1967 borders as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Saar made the remarks during a toast in honor of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) which he hosted in Tel Aviv. The event was attended by ministers, Knesset members and mayors.
Saar explained that Israel was obliged to resume negotiations with the PA in order to maintain a series of security and international interests, but stressed that this time around it was necessary to negotiate using a different approach.
"What is important is to conduct the negotiations differently than in the past,” he said.
"For over four years the Palestinians refused to resume negotiations because we refused to go resume them from the point where the talks were halted during [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert’s term. Olmert’s suggestions cannot be a basis for negotiations as far as we’re concerned. We come to the talks with different positions.”
In 2008, Olmert offered Abbas an unprecedented offer including 94% of Judea and Samaria, as well as shared control over Jerusalem. Abbas never officially responded to Olmert’s offer, effectively rejecting it.
Saar declared Thursday that the Israeli government will never accept the PA’s demand to withdraw to the 1949 Armistice Line because these borders, which were called “Auschwitz borders” by former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, are indefensible.
"We will insist on Jerusalem remaining the united and undivided capital of Israel,” Saar said, adding, "We do not believe in uprooting Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael nor do we believe that doing this leads to peace."
"We will be obliged to act intelligently, responsibly, using good judgment, while maintaining the relationships we have with our best friends," said Saar.
Israel and the PA recently resumed talks following pressure by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
For years, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas imposed preconditions on talks with Israel, including a demand that Israel release terrorists who were jailed before 1993, freeze construction in Judea and Samaria (after refusing to come to the table when Israel froze construction in 2010) and even present a map of the future Palestinian state before any negotiations take place.
Before the current round of talks began, it was claimed that Abbas had agreed to drop most of his preconditions. However, the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat recently revealed that the PA would not have returned to the negotiating table with Israel had it not received a letter of assurances from the United States, guaranteeing its main negotiating preconditions.
Erekat said in a radio interview that the U.S. had assured the PA in writing that talks would recognize the indefensible pre-1967 borders as the basis of a Palestinian state, would deal with all core issues (Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security and water), would take place within six to nine months and would not allow for any interim solutions before a final status agreement is signed.
Meanwhile, as negotiations have continued, Abbas has continued his “double talk”. Last week, he met with members of the leftist Meretz party and assured them that if a peace agreement is reached with Israel, it would bring an end to his people’s demands of the Jewish state. He also hinted that the PA would not “ask to return to Yafo, Akko and Tzfat.”
After the comments were made public on Israeli media, Abbas turned around and issued a statement on behalf of his Fatah party which stated that "the main goal of the negotiations with Israel is to establish an independent Palestinian state within the [pre-]1967 borders with its capital Al-Quds (Jerusalem -ed.), and the return of refugees in accordance with resolutions by international legitimate institutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.”