Israeli PM: Interim Mideast peace deal is option

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister said Monday that if negotiations don’t resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he could seek an interim accord instead of the comprehensive deal the United States wants. Palestinians reject that idea.

In an interview with Israeli Channel 10 TV, Benjamin Netanyahu said that if negotiations bog down on major issues that have stymied peace efforts for years, he could seek a short-term deal.

“It could be we hit a wall — a wall on the topic of Jerusalem, maybe a wall on the subject of (Palestinian) refugees — it could be that then the result will be an interim agreement,” he said.

Netanyahu said he would not divide Jerusalem and would insist on an Israeli military presence in the Jordan River valley, the eastern edge of the West Bank — ideas also rejected by the Palestinians.

Israel fears militants could take over the West Bank if Israel withdraws, as the violence Islamic Hamas overran the Gaza Strip two years after Israel’s 2005 pullout.

On Sunday, Israel’s hard-line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman floated a similar proposal of a long-term interim arrangement with the Palestinians, but with a different emphasis. He said the peace talks cannot succeed, and Israel should not negotiate a peace treaty with the West Bank regime of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the idea of an interim agreement idea is “a nonstarter and will not fly.”

“This is not the time for interim solutions,” he said. “The time is for the decisions on the permanent status issues.”

The Palestinian Authority was set up on the basis of an interim peace agreement in 1994. Incremental peacemaking broke down over mutual mistrust and accusations by both sides of violations.

U.S.-backed peace talks broke down in September only weeks after starting over the issue of Israel settlement construction.

Israel had a partial construction freeze in effect for 10 months but declined to renew it. The Palestinians refuse to negotiate while Israel builds on lands the Palestinians want for a future state.

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