January 31, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Israel's Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Monday denied a local report claiming the Jewish country was willing to cede its sovereignty over the Jordan Rift Valley to the Palestinians.

The report, carried by the Ma'ariv daily, also said Israel would settle for security arrangements along the Jordan River after ceding the power.

According to Ma'ariv, Yitzhak Molcho, the Israeli representative to the Amman exploratory talks, made such an offer to his Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat, but was rejected by the latter who said Israel's true intention is to occupy the area militarily.

In response to speculations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a PMO statement that he would only agree to sign on a final status pact with the Palestinians "if it includes Israel remaining in the Jordan Valley."

The PMO called the report a "distorted and tendentious leak from the talks, the success of which depends on the secrecy that both sides are committed to."

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Monday termed the report "a manipulative leak with no good intention of resuming the (peace) talks" on Israel Radio.

He went on to say that past negotiations had proven that the Palestinians were not interested in concluding talks on the base of a two-state solution.

This is not the first time that the issue on the valley has caused confusion in Israel. In a May 2011 speech, Netanyahu's words were interpreted as suggesting that Israel would agree to evacuate Jewish communities in the valley.

The Jordan Rift Valley is a geographic region that lies between the West Bank and neighboring Jordan. Some 47,000 Palestinians live on the Israeli-controlled side of the Valley, along with some 20,000 Jewish settlers.


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