JERUSALEM – Newly installed Israeli President Shimon Peres has quietly drafted a plan for the Jewish state to evacuate and transfer to the Palestinians nearly the entire West Bank and several Arab Israeli cities located within territory that is undisputedly Israel’s according to the international community, WND has learned.
The West Bank is strategic territory that runs alongside Jerusalem and is within rocket range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport. It is home to many biblical Jewish communities and some of Judaism’s holiest sites.
Peres has presented his initiative to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and to top aides for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the past few weeks, after he took office as Israeli president last month, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem told WND.
The official role of president here is limited largely to ceremonial matters; the president does not create foreign policy.
Olmert is mulling over the plan and agrees with much of its contents, the diplomatic sources said.
Peres’ plan calls for Israel to hand 97-percent of the West Bank over to Abbas, with Israel retaining a small number of the territory’s Jewish communities. In exchange for Israel keeping some land, the Jewish state will give the PA control of Arab Israeli cities north of Tel Aviv which, together with the evacuated West Bank territory, would amount to the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank.
Diplomatic sources said aside from Abbas and Olmert, Peres has presented his plan to European Union officials. Top EU diplomats in recent days told the media they want a U.S.-sponsored international conference scheduled for November to lead to negotiations on a final agreement with the Palestinians.
That international conference and talk from the Bush administration the past few weeks has led many here to speculate the U.S. will push in the near future for intense Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a Palestinian state.
With a year and a half left in office, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been urging meetings between Abbas and Olmert to establish a framework for momentum leading to a breakthrough at November’s conference. Olmert and Abbas have been meeting bi-monthly in summits brokered by the U.S.
Already Olmert during the meetings has granted a number of security concessions to Abbas regarding increased Palestinian control of the West Bank.
The Israeli prime minister last month amnesty to 178 gunmen from Abbas’ Fatah organization who comprise most of the senior leadership of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of Fatah that is responsible for every suicide bombing in Israel the past three years.
Olmert is reportedly considering granting amnesty to 206 more Brigades terrorists. According to Palestinian officials, the Israeli Prime Minister already informed the PA that Fatah gunmen are largely immune from Israeli anti-terror raids regardless of whether they are officially on Olmert’s amnesty list.
Also, Olmert is strongly considering removing hundreds of Israel Defense Forces roadblocks and checkpoints situated in strategic sites located throughout the West Bank. The IDF sees the checkpoints as crucial in helping stop terrorists, including suicide bombers, from infiltrating Jewish cities.
As well, in a scantily-reported but major move, Israel last week started allowing armed Palestinian policemen to patrol areas in the West Bank that fall under Israeli security control according to the 1993 Oslo Accords. Security in the territory, referred to as Area B, is supposed to be ensured by the IDF, which still monitors the area but has allowed for an unprecedented stepped-up armed Palestinian security presence there.
In response to the renewed momentum toward a Palestinian state, rabbis for the Yesha Council of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – the West Bank – yesterday slammed the Israeli government for considering major concessions.
The council released a statement expressing “concern at the irresponsible diplomatic moves being made during these days, the main point of which is the consent to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. These moves are founded upon irrelevant considerations of political survival, and are being made in total opposition to the opinion of the defense establishment.”
Peres overstepping his boundaries?
When Peres assumed the role of president last month, political analysts and pundits here widely expected him to defy the limits of his office and take a hands-on role in Israeli diplomacy and policy making.
According to Knesset sources, Peres is contemplating even asking lawmakers to officially expand the role of the president to include conducting foreign policy.
During Pere’s acceptance speech last month, he called for Israel to retreat from the West Bank. The next day, he called for direct negotiations with Syria, which is hosting top Palestinian terror leaders and supporting the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, which last summer launched thousands of rockets into Israeli population centers. Syrian President Bashar Assad warned several times the past few months his country is preparing for war.
Peres, Israel’s longest standing Knesset member, was considered the driving force of the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Peres Peace Center, headed by the new president, advocates the division of Jerusalem and Israeli withdrawals from the strategic West Bank and Golan Heights.
Peres repeatedly has come under fire by critics for policies and plans many say would greatly undermine Israel’s security if implemented.
An official biography of the elderly statesman released earlier this year, entitled “Shimon Peres,” revealed a draft agreement he hammered out with West Germany in 1961 to allow the creation of German military bases on Israeli soil less than two decades after the Holocaust.
The biography also detailed a controversial plan Peres concocted to lease French Guyana from France and create an Israeli colony there at a time when the nine-year-old Israel was desperate for immigrants and struggling to establish itself.
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