Sharon Moves Closer to Geneva Proposal on Territorial Exchange

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told a Moroccan newspaper that if security and quiet are attained, he is definitely ready to recognize a Palestinian state and to “go a long way” in negotiations.

Scott Shiloh, | updated: 13:02

In an interview in Le Economist, Sharon said that while Israel would not return to the borders that existed prior to the 1967 Six Day War, it was ready to exchange territories with a Palestinian state.

The idea of retaining settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, in exchange for other territories liberated by Israel in the 1948 War of Independence, is similar to proposals set forth in the “Geneva Initiative,” a draft agreement for a negotiated settlement which would set up a Palestinian state.

That initiative has been strongly supported by Meretz-Yahad leader Yossi Beilin, and provides for handing over the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, to Arab control.

Regarding Jerusalem, Sharon said, “neighborhoods bordering Jerusalem, located outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries where Palestinians live, will be returned in a comprehensive settlement to the State of Palestine, as we have no interest in annexing them.”

According to reports, Sharon is willing to retain Maaleh Adumim, the northern part of Gush Etzion, and Ariel as settlement blocs. They are areas that are being included within Israel’s security barrier. The Geneva Initiative, however, does not provide for retaining the city of Ariel under Israeli control.

The idea of retaining settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria in exchange for territories held prior to the Six Day War has also been touted by right-wing former MK Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Lieberman has proposed exchanging Arab populated towns within the pre-1967 borders, such as Taibe and Um el Fahm, for certain settlement blocs.

Under the maps outlined in the Geneva Initiative, Israel would give the PA territories in the western Negev adjacent to Gaza, as well as areas east of Hevron in the Lachish area in exchange for Maaleh Adumim and parts of Gush Etzion.

Sharon, ironically, initially justified the Disengagement Plan as a means of forestalling or precluding the adoption of the Geneva Initiative. Under that plan, which was implemented last August, Israel destroyed 25 Jewish communities in Gaza and northern Samaria, expelling close to 9,000 Jews from their homes. Following the demolition of the communities in Gush Katif, Israel relinquished control of the Gaza district to the Palestinian Authority.