by David Bedein
Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that his consent to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state depended on an Israeli presence on its eastern border, such as in the Jordan Valley. This was due to the concern of rocket smuggling from the Jordanian border.
Mr. Netanyahu added, “We are surrounded by an ever-growing arsenal of rockets in Iranian pockets from north and south.”
In his annual address to the Israel Foreign Press Association, delivered Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu stressed that Israel must ensure that, at the entrances to the areas abutting Israel, there be an efficient way to stop missile smuggling. This, he said, required an Israeli presence on the eastern side of the Palestinian state.
The Israeli prime minister sounded pessimistic about renewing negotiations with the Palestinians.
“Instead of starting negotiations, the Palestinians have climbed up a tree and appear to be staying there,” he said. “The more ladders they bring them, they just climb higher up.”
Special U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, met this week with Mr. Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Mr. Mitchell arrived in Jerusalem from Lebanon and Syria, where he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who told him that, as of now, he “doesn’t see that Israel is interested in peace. There is no point to negotiations with a government that constantly declares that it is not interested in reaching a peace agreement with its neighbors, which imposes a siege on Gaza and which threatens aggression.”
Palestinian officials said yesterday that they would propose to Mr. Mitchell that the U.S. represent their interests in the talks on the permanent status arrangement with Israel and basically mediate between the sides.
Chief Palestinian Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected the statements that were made by Mr. Netanyahu as if Israel would have to maintain a presence in Judea and Samaria as part of a final status arrangement.
Mr. Erekat said that “Netanyahu was trying, once again, to establish facts on the ground on his own instead of by means of negotiations.”
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