While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
is seeking international support for continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Rift Valley, even in the event of a peace agreement, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Tuesday, "There is no Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu's proposal for an interim peace deal suffered a blow earlier in the day when British Foreign Secretary William Hague demanded that Israel
and the Palestinians resume discussions and seek a breakthrough on a permanent peace deal before the end of the year.
Following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London, Hague said "the British government's message today is that the peace process cannot become a casualty of uncertainty in the region. It is too important to be allowed to fail or falter."
'Sovereignty issue open.' PM in Jordan Valley (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
Since the civil unrest began spreading throughout the Arab world, Netanyahu has increased his efforts to garner support from western leaders for continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. He claims the region is vital for Israel's security, particularly in light of the recent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other countries.
However, the PM said the issue of sovereignty over the Jordan Valley will be determined during the peace negotiations, should they resume. "Without Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, a truck will be able to travel freely from Iran to Petah Tikva," he said during a tour of the region.
Without military presence in the Jordan Valley, the PM continued, Israel will not be able to thwart the smuggling of arms to the territories or prevent terrorists from infiltrating.
In response to Netanyahu's comments, Fayyad said there is no other solution than the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
It appears that Netanyahu would agree to greater Palestinian control in the West Bank and the easing of restrictions on the Palestinian population in the area.
Israeli officials have expressed concern lately that the US will demand that Netanyahu clearly address the issue of a possible withdrawal to the 1967 borders.
The prime minister plans to significantly increase Israel's defense budget. One official said Israel "must have an answer to the missile threats and the new technological threats, as well as to compensate for any concessions it may have to make."
Elior Levy contributed to the report