Amid the stalled Middle East peace process, the Israeli government is considering proposing an interim arrangement with the Palestinians. But Palestinian leaders said they would not accept such a provisional arrangement that stops short of settling on final borders for the creation of a Palestinian state.
The Israeli government is "seriously considering an initiative" that would represent a "phased approach to reaching a final peace accord," one Israeli official told the New York Times. The newspaper noted that Israeli officials "have not offered any details on the initiative, but have said that Israel is talking about it with 'relevant parties,' including the Obama administration."
But a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that the option was a non-starter.
"Anything less than an Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967 is unacceptable to us," Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeneh said, according to Israel's Ynet news website. "We oppose the option of a state with provisional borders."
According to a number of Middle Eastern analysts, Palestinian officials fear that their Israeli counterparts may seek to use an interim arrangement to further delay Palestinian aspirations for permanent borders and sovereignty.
"I doubt the Palestinians will be particularly interested in new interim arrangements given the experience during the 1990s in which interim arrangements involving the division of the West Bank into areas A, B and C has become semi-permanent, the five-year transition period has extended itself for almost 20, and the number of settlers increased during the same period of time from 200,000 to 500,000," the American Task Force for Palestine's Hussein Ibish said. "I also think it's unlikely that anybody is going to take very serious risks on peace while the strategic and political landscape in the Middle East generally is so much in flux."
President Barack Obama, in a meeting with American Jewish leaders earlier this week, reiterated U.S. commitment to the security of the Jewish state, while relaying Palestinian doubts "that the Netanyahu government is serious about territorial concessions," participants in the meeting told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz. "Obama also indicated that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was set on establishing a state during his tenure and [would] be amenable to an acceptable deal if offered."
White House Middle East adviser Dennis Ross acknowledged this week that the Obama administration's efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks had basically stalled out when the Egypt revolution erupted in January.
But he also urged Israel to recognize that the transformative events under way in the Middle East underscore why it would be a risky miscalculation to delay making a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.
"If Israel can view one lesson from the events in Egypt, it is the danger of getting stuck with an unsustainable status quo," Ross said while speaking at a conference for the liberal Jewish lobbying group J Street earlier this week. "Just as the frustrations in Egypt grew over time, we should all recognize that the conflict with the Palestinians will only become more intractable over time."
(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met for peace talks in Egypt Sept. 14, 2009: Nasser Nasser/AP.)