'Interim Deal? It Just Means We'll Keep Talking'
As reports surface that Israel and the US are just days away from signing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon clarified Tuesday that an interim deal would not end talks - it would only prolong them, Maariv reports Tuesday.
"I want to clarify that we are now engaged in an attempt to reach the framework of the continued negotiations for a period beyond the nine months [given for a deal]" Ya'alon stated, during a visit to the Central Command.
"We are not engaged in negotiating a framework for a [permanent] agreement, but the framework for further negotiations," Yaalon elaborated. "It is clear to us that there are large gaps [between us] - and this is not new - but it is certainly in our interest to continue negotiations and to continue to work to stabilize the situation in the relationship between us and the Palestinians."
According to senior government officials, there is no guarantee that either side would agree to a deal lengthening talks. The PA has stated that they would prefer to give an oral agreement to continue talks rather than sign a document - to evade responsibility, perhaps, in the event talks fail.
Yaalon refused to reveal the contents of the negotiations, however. "I do not want to delve into the contents of the negotiations," he said. "I'm not referring to whether we have grounds for optimism or not; I'm [just being] realistic and [saying that the] gaps are very large."
"We stand to defend the security interests of Israel and I have made my opinion heard several times," Yaalon continued. "The heart of the conflict is the PA's refusal to recognize Israel as a sovereign state; and regarding security issues relevant for the State of Israel, I will be a tough nut to crack."
On Sunday, Yaalon and other senior Defense officials expressed reservations about the US's plan for Israel and the PA, explaining that Israel's withdrawal from the Jordan Valley invites Hamas to take over the PA and use the mountainous region as a launchpad for attacks on central Israel.
The plans laid out by US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly give Israel temporary control of the border along the Jordan Valley, but soon shift control to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The IDF will patrol the length of the Jordan border for the first few years of the US plan. However, after a few years joint patrols will be held with PA forces, with the cooperation of the Jordanians on the other side of the river. The US will also send drones to monitor the area - something IDF officials explain is insufficient to prevent terror attacks.
"US drones can not stop suicide bombers in Jenin and expose explosives," one official explained to Walla!.
"If we transfer control of the region to the PA, then we will have missiles raining down from Nablus on Kfar Saba and Ben Gurion airport," another official added. "In the meantime, the IDF and ISA (Shin Bet) is working to counter Hamas. The PA is not capable of stopping terror."