ARABS-ISRAEL - July 15 - Israel Rejects Land Exchanges.
Israeli government rejects the idea of land exchanges with the PA, a concept that was discussed seriously during the failed peace talks at Camp David in 2000. The cabinet decides to build several new towns in the Halutza Sands region, a part of the Negev that lies near the Gaza Strip and along Israel's border with Egypt. (At Camp David, PM Sharon's predecessor, Ehud Barak, proposed to Arafat that the PA took control of Halutza Sands, which is part of Israel proper. In return, they would agree to Israel's annexation of the West Bank areas containing the heaviest concentrations of Jewish settlers. The PA, while endorsing such an exchange in principle, rejected the proposal out of hand. It did not like the quality of the land - about 200 sq km of desert - and could not accept the idea of giving up appreciably more territory than it was offered). PM Sharon is quoted by Yediot Ahronot as saying: "No Zionist government will decide to transfer state land to a foreign element". The decision to build an unspecified number of towns in the Halutza Sands area is aimed at "spreading the population" by developing an uninhabited part of the Negev (and in the process ignoring objections from Israeli environmentalists who want to keep Halutza Sands as a nature reserve). But the practical effect is to tell the PA that there will be no yielding of pre-1967 Israeli land by this government, especially since Arafat insists on a Palestinian "right of return". Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin says: "The prime minister made no secret that he doesn't intend to allow the right of return of Palestinians to sovereign Israel. We are willing to make compromises within the territories, not within Israel". But a senior PA official Nabil Shaath says the Israeli action shows that Sharon will "challenge any Israeli idea that shows flexibility in negotiating with the Palestinians". (The Israeli move comes the same day when FM Peres meets with Arafat in Cairo in a search for an end to the violence. He says: "All the stories that we want to go back to the territories, to dismantle the Palestinian Authority or to affect the position of Arafat are total nonsense").
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|Publication:||APS Diplomat Recorder|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jul 21, 2001|
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