Israeli and Palestinian sources on Wednesday denied a report to the effect that, under a new American bid to kick-start peace talks, Israel would transfer security control over most West Bank villages to the Palestinians in return for the PA forgoing its bid to gain statehood status in international organizations.
According to “highly knowledgeable Palestinian sources” who spoke to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, US Secretary of State John Kerry has updated Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the outline of his peace plan, which will eventually lead to a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps and “constructive solutions” for the issue of Jerusalem’s holy sites.
US President Barack Obama has appointed Kerry to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians following their trips to the region in March. Last week, Kerry warmly endorsed a declaration by the Arab League recognizing “minor,” mutually agreed-upon land swaps in the West Bank as part of a final-status agreement.
The sources said that over the coming months Israel will transfer to the PA security control over most West Bank vilages, including several towns on the Palestinian side of the security barrier in East Jerusalem: Ar-Ram, Anata, Eizaria and Abu-Dis.
A diplomatic source in Jerusalem who spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity “completely denied” the report in Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
Reached for comment, Xavier Abu-Eid, a communications adviser at the PLO and a member of its negotiating team, said that as far as he knows the Palestinians had received no official plan from the Americans.
He speculated that the leak came from Jordanian sources. Jordan has a large Palestinian population.
“This would not be the first time Al-Quds Al-Arabi does something like this,” he said.
The report also said that Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners — particularly those arrested before the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993 — and freeze construction beyond the Green Line with the exception of Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership welcomed the American plan, the sources said.
Israeli Construction Minister Uri Ariel has all but confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently instructed him to freeze tenders for new settlement construction in the West Bank as part of a new peace plan.