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6 Nov, 2013 03:13

'Apartheid wall' as border? Israel offers Palestine its demarcation terms – reports

'Apartheid wall' as border? Israel offers Palestine its demarcation terms – reports

Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank should form the border with a future Palestinian state, Israeli negotiators have reportedly offered Palestinian counterparts as a part of dragging peace negotiations.

Negotiators in the renewed peace talks have also discussed a shared area in Jerusalem accessible to Israelis and Palestinians, according to Israeli news reports.

The leaks come on the eve of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival in Israel amid the three-month-old talks that have seen little progress despite 15 clandestine meetings between sides.

"I come here without any illusions about the difficulties, but I come here determined to work," Kerry said upon arrival before talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"We believe this is something that is possible and that it's good for all and can be achieved," he said, according to Reuters.

Israel Radio and Yedioth Ahronoth reported Netanyahu’s team in the talks proposed the separation border, originally built ten years ago as a supposed shield against suicide bombers, as a permanent fix.

Yet Palestinians have demanded in negotiations that borders should be based on those that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel took over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. They call the barrier an “apartheid wall” and claim the true purpose of its construction was to annex Palestinian land.

Israel officials would not confirm the leaked reports.

The shared-Jerusalem proposal allegedly caused a stir among Israeli negotiators, Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, over the size of the area, which Livni wanted to be much larger. Palestinians have long supported the shared space, officials say.

Palestinian protesters throw stones at an Israeli army's tractor during clashes following a protest against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, in the northern West Bank, on November 1, 2013. (AFP Photo / Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have expressed frustration over a lack of progress thus far in the talks, on issues such as the borders of a Palestinian state, security guidelines, Israeli settlements in occupied territory and the future of Palestinian refugees.

Amid the talks, Israel has released about half of the over 100 Palestinian prisoners in accordance with a deal brokered by Kerry to draw Abbas back to negotiations.

Yet Israel has continued building settlements in contested areas - land it has said it would keep in any accord - and claims the settlements were part of the agreement that led to the released prisoners. Israel released 26 Palestinian men last week, as it also advanced its plan to build 3,500 more settler homes in the West Bank.

Most countries see the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal, as Israel claims historical and biblical rights to the areas. About 500,000 Israelis live there with 2.5 million Palestinians.

An Abbas spokesman condemned the settlement construction, but said Palestinians want to stay with the negotiations.

"What's required is a firm American position on Israel's provocations. Israel is continuing its policy of putting obstacles in front of the peace process - every time Kerry comes to the region they announce more settlements,” Nabil Abu Rdeineh said.

Netanyahu said Palestinians were breaking what he portrayed as a deal the sides agreed on.

"If they can't even ... stand beside and behind the agreements that we had, that we release prisoners but we continue building, then how can I see that they'll actually stand by the larger issues?" he told the i24 television news channel.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv said the US was drafting an agreement to impose on the two sides should talks break down. The plan is based on a seven-hour meeting Kerry had with Netanyahu last month, Maariv reported.

Kerry said Monday there was no such plan “at this point in time.”