State officials in Jerusalem confirmed on Saturday that Israel has begun the process of drafting a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. However, the officials stressed, the negotiations are far from a stage where a final accord can be drawn up.
"While there are points of consent on minor issues, there is still a complex disparity when it comes to the core issues," said the officials. "The stage of drawing up an agreement is still far away. The efforts continue and there is much work ahead of us."
Knesset members from both ends of the political spectrum had negative reactions to statements made by the Palestinian Authority's top negotiator, Ahmed Qureia, on Friday in which he said Israel and the PA were prepared to begin drafting a final deal.
"If what Qureia said regarding the drafting of a peace agreement is correct, it should be made clear that the next government will not recognize that document," said MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu).
"Such a document should be seen as an attempt at a political coup aimed at retaining power and not a serious political accord agreed upon in a rational and responsible manner," he said.
MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni of "selling Israel's interests down the river while they continue their political bickering."
Sa'ar said that "the only reason to put these things in writing is to saddle the next government with far-reaching concessions. For this to be done in the final days of the Olmert-Livni government is an
Meanwhile MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al) cast serious doubt on Saturday as to the viability of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. "There are severe and intrinsic gaps between the two sides," he.
"Drafting is trivial in negotiations and is not a harbinger of an accord," said Tibi.
Roni Sofer contributed to this report