Anthony Billingsley
The Telegraph (Blog)
August 2, 2011 - 12:00am

Israel's Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, is reported to have offered to resume negotiations with the Palestinians to address the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

These negotiations would be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. According to media reports, Netanyahu would be willing to consider a formula on borders "that would be difficult for Israel to accept".

He has, however, made clear that Israel will not return to the borders it had before the 1967 Six-Day War. The establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank since then must be taken into account. According to Israeli officials, in exchange for this concession, Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and abandon a plan to seek endorsement of Palestinian statehood from the United Nations next month. While the Prime Minister made no reference to Jerusalem, it is likely that the status of the city is not up for negotiation.

Netanyahu's comments appear consistent with the position he outlined in an uncompromising speech he gave to the US Congress in May, which was widely seen as the nail in the coffin of the peace process. His insistence then as now on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is probably enough to prevent a return to negotiations as it would leave the Israeli Palestinians, who make up around 20 per cent of the Israeli population, in an invidious position in their state.

The Palestinians are likely to react to Netanyahu's offer with scepticism.

There is nothing new in the offer and nothing in his record that might encourage them to see a genuine change of heart from the Prime Minister. Rather, they may see it as more of a stalling tactic intended to head off the statehood initiative at the United Nations, which they hope will break the deadlock of the past 20 years.


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