Netanyahu would give up 86% of West Bank, says deputy FM. Peace talks may start next week.

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(Washington, D.C.) — Is Prime Minister Netanyahu preparing to give away 86% of the West Bank to create a sovereign Palestinian state? That’s what Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister says. Israel’s Intelligence Minister is also telling the media that Netanyahu is willing to make “serious territorial concessions.”

Peace talks are set to begin here in Washington next week, possibly as early as Tuesday.

“Netanyahu would agree ‘to a Palestinian state on 86% of the territory,’ said Ze’ev Elkin, a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud party,” reports two Israeli media outlets, the Times of Israel and Maariv.  “The prime minister would not consent to the division of Jerusalem, Elkin added, ‘but Tzipi Livni would.’ Livni, leader of the Hatnua party, will be heading Israel’s team to the negotiations.”

“However, Elkin, who opposes Palestinian statehood, went on to note that the Palestinians had rejected Ariel Sharon’s idea, and had always indicated that they insisted on attaining 100% of the West Bank, with very limited land swaps on a one-for-one basis, to enable Israel to maintain only what he called ‘settlement strings’ rather than settlement blocs,” reported the Times. “The Orthodox Elkin, who lives at the Kfar Eldad settlement in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem, said that, thus far, ‘the Lord…has solved our problems via the Arabs. [Yasser] Arafat didn’t accept [former prime minister Ehud] Barak’s offers,’ and Abbas didn’t accept former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s proposals, he said. ‘But if the Palestinians, heaven forbid, were to show flexibility and come toward us, we’d get a lousy deal….On the 86% of the territory they’d get, they would build a terror state…But the fact is that the Palestinians haven’t budged a millimeter’ in their demands for 100% of the West Bank.”

“We are prepared to make considerable concessions and it’s not going to be easy,” said Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs, in an interview with the UK Telegraph. “Both sides will have to make very significant concessions and very difficult concessions. We will probably have to make very serious territorial concessions. And the Palestinians will have to make also both territorial concessions — because there will be settlement blocks — but more important still they will have to recognise the very existence of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”

Other stories worth tracking on the peace process:

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