Jerusalem: Israel`s leader is demanding
that Israeli troops remain on the eastern border of a future
Palestinian state, further antagonising the Palestinians at a
time when they are already threatening to walk out of peace
The negotiations, which resumed this month in
Washington after a two-year breakdown, are foundering over
Palestinian demands that Israel extend a curb on Jewish
construction in the West Bank. That curb, in place for 10
months, is to expire Sunday.
Israel`s military chief told lawmakers today that the
military was preparing for possible clashes between Israelis
and Palestinians should the negotiations run aground.
Resolution of the construction dispute is critical to
the fate of the peace talks because the Palestinians say they
won`t negotiate unless the construction slowdown continues.
For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the cardinal
factor for Israel in any peace deal is the Jewish state`s
security. He has contended that Israel must maintain a troop
presence along the border with Jordan to keep Palestinian
militants from smuggling in weapons to the West Bank after a
peace deal is reached.
Yesterday, Netanyahu drove home this position in great
detail - angering the Palestinians, who flatly reject the idea
as an infringement of their prospective sovereignty. They have
proposed that an international force be deployed instead.
"I don`t believe that under these circumstances,
international troops will do the job," Netanyahu said in a
conference call with US Jewish leaders. "The only force that
can be relied on to defend the Jewish people is the Israeli
That will never happen, said Palestinian spokesman
Husam Zomlot, adding that "not one Israeli soldier" will be
permitted to remain in a future Palestinian state.
"An international presence will be able to monitor and
enforce security once the political situation has been sorted
(out)," Zomlot said.
Military chief Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi underscored
concerns of possible violence should the talks falter.
"The Palestinians have very sober expectations
regarding progress and in Israel, tensions exist among the
Jewish population ahead of the expiry of the settlement
construction freeze," the Haaretz newspaper quoted Ashkenazi
as telling parliament`s foreign affairs and defense committee.
He said the military was planning for an eruption of violence,
but details weren`t immediately known.