Livni 'Willing to Cede Control of Jordan Valley'
Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are once again expressing concern that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the Israeli negotiating team with the Palestinian Authority (PA), is undermining the prime minister's positions in the talks.
Daily newspaper Maariv quoted sources close to Netanyahu who said that Livni's positions differ from those of Netanyahu on the key issues of Jerusalem, eviction of Jewish communities and Israel's security arrangements in the Jordan Valley.
According to the report, Livni - who heads the left-wing Hatnua political party - is willing to pull out the IDF from the Jordan Valley which guards Israel's long eastern border, and let an international force take its place. Netanyahu vigorously opposes this, citing the region's crucial strategic importance.
In addition, Livni has agreed to divide Jerusalem between Israel and a future state of “Palestine” in Judea and Samaria, as well as a large scale eviction of Jews from communities in Judea and Samaria – whereas Netanyahu believes that communities need to remain under Palestinian sovereignty, with proper security arrangements.
Maariv reported three weeks ago that Livni has been making various generous offers in contacts with the PA and US representatives, while Netanyahu thinks that Israel should not give up its best cards in the early stages of negotiations, as it is not clear what the PA is willing to cede in terms of security arrangements.
“In Netanyahu's vicinity,” the newspaper explained, “there is a feeling that the Americans, whom Israel is making every effort not to bring into the negotiations room, are eagerly using Livni's statements in their conversations with the Palestinians and thus weakening Israel's position in the talks."
There is widespread consensus among experts that ceding control of the Jordan Valley to any force but the IDF will make it extremely likely that missiles and other military hardware will be smuggled into Judea and Samaria, from where it could be used to target Tel Aviv with ease.
If a Palestinian state were to be established in all or the majority of Judea and Samaria, experts say such an arrangement would leave central Israel as narrow as 8 miles at some points, placing approximately 70% of Israel's population within firing-range of deadly mortars and rocket fire, and without the "strategic depth" to successfully defend against invasion.
Other sources close to the Prime Minister told Maariv that they were not aware of the aforementioned concerns regarding Livni.