Josef Federman
The Associated Press
April 6, 2011 - 12:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask Germany's leader to drop her support for a proposal endorsing a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem when he meets with her this week, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

Germany, along with Britain and France, is leading the proposal, which would call for an Israeli withdrawal from nearly all territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Netanyahu objects to such a widespread pullout, and says endorsing the Palestinian position on borders would take away a key incentive for them to restart long-stalled negotiations.

Officials close to Netanyahu said h would raise the matter with Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting scheduled Thursday in Berlin. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a sensitive diplomatic matter.

Israel fears the "Quartet" of Mideast peacemakers — the European Union, United Nations, Russia and United States — will endorse the European initiative when it meets in Germany later this month.

Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, confirmed this week that the U.K. and its European allies would push for negotiations to proceed based on the 1967 borders, with small adjustments based on mutually agreed-upon land swaps.

"What the U.K., France and Germany are putting to the Quartet is that the basis of negotiations set out by the Quartet, including the United States, should include 1967 borders, with land swaps, a just settlement for refugees and Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states," Hague told lawmakers. "We are advocating that as an established basis for negotiations."

It remains unclear whether the full Quartet — especially the U.S. — supports the proposal.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem for their future state. Although Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Netanyahu says Israel must retain areas of the West Bank to ensure his country's security. Parts of the West Bank are just minutes from major Israeli population centers.

Netanyahu also rejects a pullout from east Jerusalem — which is home to sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites.

Although the international community, and even previous Israeli governments, have previously endorsed the 1967 borders as the basis of a broader peace agreement, Israel believes that doing so at the current time would be harmful to peace efforts.

The Palestinians cut off negotiations in September, demanding that Israel halt settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. They are now proceeding with plans to get the United Nations to endorse a Palestinian state, with or without a peace agreement, in September.

Israeli officials say borders are a matter for negotiation, and that a Quartet vote in favor the 1967 lines would inadvertently encourage the Palestinians to proceed with what Israel says is a "rejectionist" path.

They also say the international community should not take a stand on a key issue while remaining vague on matters of concern to Israel, such as future security arrangements and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees, to negotiations.


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