JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting U.S. lawmakers he supports further land swaps with the Palestinians and that he does not want his country to govern the strategic West Bank, according to classified documents released by WikiLeaks and reviewed by WND.
A February 2009 diplomatic cable marked “secret” recounted a meeting between Netanyahu and a delegation led by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.
“Netanyahu expressed support for the concept of land swaps, and emphasized that he did not want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop attacks from being launched from there,” read the cable.
The cable related Netanyahu spoke to the congressmen about “three options,” with regard an Israeli-Palestinian deal:
- Withdrawing to the 1967 borders, which Netanyahu stated would “get terror, not peace.” Those borders refer to an Israeli evacuation of the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.
- “Doing nothing,” which Netanyahu called “just as bad;”
- Or “rapidly building a pyramid from the ground up.”
Explaining the third approach, Netanyahu suggested a “rapid move to develop the West Bank economically, including ‘unclogging’ bureaucratic ‘bottlenecks.'”
Continued the cable: “He promised to ‘take charge personally’ (as prime minister) to facilitate this bureaucratic reform, which would occur in tandem with political negotiations and cooperation with Jordan to build up Palestinian Authority security capacity.”
Netanyahu, however, promised that as prime minister, he would not back “unilateral withdrawals,” meaning an evacuation of territory without an agreement with the Palestinians.
The information comes after Netanyahu earlier this month reportedly agreed to an arrangement for the Palestinians to assume de facto ownership of the Jordan Valley.
Israel’s Army Radio US claimed the Obama administration proposed that Israel relinquish the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians and that the Jewish state would lease back parts of the valley from the Palestinians for a up to seven years.
According to that report, Netanyahu agreed to the idea, but asked for the arrangement for the lease to be longer than seven years.
A PA official told WND, however, the Obama administration instead has adopted the Palestinian position that the Jordan Valley should become part of a future Palestinian state entirely.
The PA official said no part of the Obama proposal allowed for Israel to lease the Jordan Valley.
He said it was Netanyahu’s office which presented a counter-offer of leasing the Jordan Valley from the PA.
The PA official and other Palestinian diplomatic sources contacted by WND said the PA has no intention of leasing the Jordan Valley to Israel if it gains the territory in a deal.
The Jordan Valley encompasses a massive swath of territory. Israeli security analysts and commentators long have argued the country is indefensible without the valley.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated multiple times the Jordan Valley is so vital to Israel’s security that Israel must control it in the future.
Netanyahu himself said at a Knesset faction meeting last February that Israel could never agree to withdraw from the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement signed with the Palestinians. Netanyahu told the Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Jordan Valley’s strategic importance along the eastern border of the West Bank made it impossible for Israel to withdraw.
The Jordan Valley runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It continues another 96 miles south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba along the Jordanian border. The Jordan Valley forms the border between Israel and Jordan in the north, and the eastern strip of the strategic West Bank in the south.
The official said the U.S. had proposed that international troops, along with Jordanian and Palestinian forces, would patrol the area. The official said discussions would be held with Israel for special security arrangements in the Jordan Valley to be determined.