London / Tel Aviv / Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat – Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt from informed sources that secret talks have been talking place between the US and Israel on the formation of a Palestinian state. Washington and Tel Aviv have discussed a Palestinian state being established in return for Israel leasing land from the Palestinian Authority; this includes land in occupied eastern Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. The sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this land-lease deal would last for a period of time between 40 and 99 years.
A Palestinian source who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed the veracity of this information, and revealed that the Palestinian Authority was not aware of any secret talks between the US and Washington. The Palestinian source said that US President Barack Obama had not informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of these negotiations.
Sources described these talks as taking place quietly, and considered this being “US initiated, rather than Israeli.” The Palestinian source also told Asharq Al-Awsat that these negotiations have been “taking place for a long time, in order to reach common ground with the Israeli side, in order to achieve initial understanding on the issue of borders, and understanding on what is expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
The Palestinian source also revealed that the Israeli administration is attempting to pressure the Obama administration – during these talks – to acknowledge a letter sent by former US President George W. Bush to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in April 2004, guaranteeing the continued existence of the already established Israeli settlements under the sovereignty of Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian source also told Asharq Al-Awsat that land-lease to Israel was discussed at the Taba Negotiations in 2001, however “the talk was for [land-lease] between 6 – 9 years, not 99 years.”
Asharq Al-Awsat previously revealed [on 4/10/2010] that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had proposed to halt settlement construction in order to return to direct negotiations with the Palestinians, in return for – amongst other conditions – US agreement of Israeli soldiers being permanently stationed in the Jordan Valley.
An Egyptian source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that these negotiations between Israel and the US – in general – aim to build confidence between the Palestinians and Israelis. The Egyptian source said “this issue may seem confusing, because part of this communication [between the US and Israel] is part of confidence building, which is something that the Israelis must pursue with regards to the Palestinians. Therefore these are negotiations are not so much secret as they are taking place quietly.”
The Egyptian source added that this is “in order to resolve the situation for America to emerge from the quagmire of the stalled negotiations.” He also said that “this is our understanding of what is taking place…but there may be something they are keeping from us. However this is our opinion, however this does not mean that we have [more] information or that we have given our agreement to anything that we have not fully investigated.”
The office of the Israeli Prime Minister refused to confirm or deny any information about these secret negotiations. However Israeli spokesman Ofer Gendelman told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we are carrying out intensive negotiations with the US administration in order to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians.” He added that “the Israeli chief negotiator and prime ministerial adviser Yitzhak Molcho has returned from America this weekend, where he carried out lengthy and intensive talks in the White House and the US State Department.”
A US State Department spokesman refused to comment on this information to Asharq Al-Awsat, saying only “we have ongoing communication with Israel…this is part of our strong and solid relations. Some of this communication is public, and some of it is private, and of course we do not announce what is private!”