Netanyahu: 1967 border OK, with conditions

Aug. 2, 2011 at 3:00 AM
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JERUSALEM, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Israel will resume peace talks based on its 1967 borders if the Palestinian Authority stops seeking U.N. Palestinian state recognition, Israel's leader said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said his organization would abandon its efforts for a statehood vote if Israel agrees to the 1967 borders and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the new Palestinian state. Israel will agree to both of these terms, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said late Monday.

Palestinian leaders would also need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu told the Israeli Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Netanyahu said Jerusalem was putting together a document with Washington it hopes will lead to talks with the Palestinian Authority, the administrative organization that governs parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The authority did not comment early Tuesday on Netanyahu's statements. It told Britain's Independent and Daily Telegraph it had not received Israel's proposal.

The proposal is based on the second of two speeches U.S. President Barack Obama made within three days in May about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu told the legislative Knesset committee.

The second speech, May 22, before an influential American-Israel lobbying group, elaborated on a May 19 U.S. State Department speech in which Obama declared the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war -- adjusted with mutually agreed land swaps to account for Israeli West Bank settlements -- should be the starting point for peace talks.

The first speech drew an angry rebuke from Netanyahu, who claimed returning Israel to its prewar 1967 borders would leave the country "indefensible."

But in his second speech, Obama elaborated, saying, "let me reaffirm what '1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps' means."

It means "the parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967," Obama said, referring to the day before the war in which Israel took effective control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt -- known then as the United Arab Republic -- the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria.

"It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation," Obama said of the border-negotiation idea. "It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

"The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples -- Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition and peace," Obama said.

That is the aim of the new U.S.-Israeli document, Netanyahu said.

But he said he didn't foresee talks with Abbas if the Palestinian Authority, which has renamed itself the Palestinian National Authority, continues to press for a U.N. vote next month to recognize Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinian Authority has said it will seek state recognition based on the prewar 1967 borders, and claim East Jerusalem as its capital, if Israel refuses to negotiate its postwar borders.

East Jerusalem includes Jerusalem's Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Washington plans to veto the measure if it reaches the Security Council, "but that will not prevent a majority in the General Assembly," The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying.

A successful application for U.N. membership requires Security Council approval and a two-thirds General Assembly majority.

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