Jerusalem: Israel is likely to offer
Palestinians a state within temporary borders, the country’s defense minister was quoted as saying Tuesday, detailing for the
first time an emerging Israeli plan for breaking the deadlocked
Though the Palestinians repeatedly have rejected provisional
statehood, Ehud Barak told The Wall Street Journal that Israel or
the United States would have to give assurances that a
full-fledged agreement on permanent statehood would follow.
Barak also told the newspaper that Israel might seek an additional
$20 billion in US military aid to help it deal with potential
threats arising from the turmoil in the Arab world.
While characterizing the popular upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia,
Libya and the Gulf as “a historic earthquake” and “quite
inspired,” Barak said Israel was worried that its top foes, Iran
and Syria, “might be the last to feel the heat” of the revolts and
that Egypt’s new leaders might, under public pressure, back away
from its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
“The issue of qualitative military aid for Israel becomes more
essential for us, and I believe also more essential for you,” the
newspaper quoted Barak as saying. “A strong, responsible Israel
can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region.” Israel
already receives $3 billion in military aid a year from the US
Without making a “daring” peace offer, however, Israel cannot seek
additional aid, Barak was quoted as saying.
To that end, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to offer
the Palestinians a state with temporary borders, he said. Only
afterward, would the two sides would resolve key issues of the
conflict, such as competing claims to Jerusalem and the fate of
Palestinian refugees, Barak added.
No details of the plan were given.
With popular protests shaking up the Mideast, Netanyahu is under
fierce international pressure to prove he is serious about getting
peacemaking moving again, especially after the US vetoed a UN
Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank
settlement construction last month.
In the past week, Israeli officials have said Netanyahu was
considering a “phased approach.” Although that was widely
interpreted to mean a temporary state, they would not say so
explicitly. Barak was the first to publicly spell that out.
A Netanyahu spokesman, Mark Regev, said Barak’s remark “can stand
on its own.” The prime minister is said to be planning a speech —
possibly to be delivered in Washington — in which he will outline
It is not clear that the US would support the idea of an interim
accord, given the Palestinians’ categorical rejection of the
A temporary state would not only give the Palestinians less
territory than they demand, but Israel would also retain military
control of the area. The Palestinians are also afraid that it they
agree to temporary borders, then they will never win a
full-fledged, independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem
and Gaza Strip.
Israel captured all three areas in 1967, then withdrew from Gaza
in 2005. Hamas militants overran the territory two years later.
Last week, Barak predicted a “tsunami” of international pressure
on Israel in the fall and said that to protect its standing, the
Israeli government had to take unspecified initiatives.