Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has proposed that Israel
carry out a gradual three-year withdrawal from the occupied
West Bank as part of any future peace deal, an offer that
fell short of Israeli demands.
He gave the timeframe in an interview shown at an
international security conference in Tel Aviv, where Israeli
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon challenged the effectiveness of
the Palestinian leader's current security commitments.
"I am saying that clearly: whoever proposes 10 or 15 years
for a transition period does not want to withdraw," Abbas
said. "We say that a transitional period not exceed three
years, during which Israel can withdraw gradually."
Abbas has spoken in general terms in past meetings with
journalists of a phased pullout from the West Bank after a
final land-for-peace accord, similar to Israel's three-year
withdrawal from Sinai after it signed a peace treaty with
Egypt in 1979.
Israel's demand for a continuing military presence in the
Jordan Valley, the likely eastern border of a Palestinian
state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has been a major issue
of contention in US-brokered peace talks that began in July
and have since stalled with the two sides still far apart.
Israeli officials have called such a deployment vital to
their country's security, voicing concern the West Bank could
become a staging ground for Palestinian militant attacks if
Israeli troops pulled out completely. Some officials have
advocated a 40-year Israeli military presence.
Appearing to address such fears, Abbas said the Palestinians
were willing for a third party such as NATO, the US-led
alliance, to "take Israel's place after the withdrawal ... to
assure both sides that things will continue as normal".
Foreign powers have been helping to build up Abbas's security
services in the West Bank and ward off any challenge from
breakaway Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of
failing to make concessions for peace, citing his
unwillingness to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and to
accept that it would not be "deluged" by Palestinian refugees
in the future.
In a speech to the same conference, hosted by Tel Aviv
University's INSS think-tank, Netanyahu reiterated earlier
calls for the Palestinians to have demilitarised statehood
only and a need for firm security arrangements under any
Yaalon poured scorn on the commitment of the Palestinian
Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank
under interim peace deals, to follow through in moves against
"We counted 1,040 cases that were handled by the Palestinian
security services in 2013. How many of them went to trial?
Zero," Yaalon told the forum.
In the same period, Yaalon said, Israel had arrested some
3,000 Palestinians, many of whom were later imprisoned.
Yaalon, who balks at the idea of removing any Jewish
settlements from the West Bank ratcheted up acrimony this
month with an Israeli newspaper quoting him as dismissing US
Secretary of State John Kerry, the peace patron, as
Asked what his administration was doing to maintain West Bank
calm, Abbas said: "All the security forces are devoted to
performing their duty to prevent arms smuggling and their use
within the Palestinian Authority or Israel."
A US official briefed on the West Bank situation was hard put
to explain the disagreement between Abbas and Yaalon.
"It's true that we haven't seen trials" of Palestinian
suspects held by Abbas's administration, the official told
Reuters on condition of anonymity. But, the official said,
that did not mean there was no Palestinian security
Asked if that meant Abbas's forces might be dealing with
suspects away from public view, the US official said "yes".
Two surveys released on Tuesday, by the INSS and the
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR),
found that 67 percent of Israelis and 70 percent of
Palestinians do not believe a permanent peace accord can be
The INSS poll surveyed 1,200 Israeli Jews, while 1,270
Palestinians were interviewed by the PSR in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. Both polls have a margin of error of 3 percent.