Israel is offering Palestinian Arabs control of their own internal security, agriculture, education and a wide range of other day-to-day activities on the West Bank and in Gaza, diplomatic sources disclosed Wednesday.
At the same time, the 10-page detailed document turned over to Palestinian negotiators Monday night and denounced by their spokeswoman on Tuesday would maintain Jewish settlements in the disputed territories.There is no offer in it for a redeployment of Israeli troops, but Israeli officials said that could be considered later.
The Israeli proposals were in response to a Palestinian plan that Israeli officials described as a thinly veiled demand for statehood. Under it, Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza would take on legislative, judicial and executive powers.
As the negotiations in the fourth round of peace talks resumed Wednesday at the State Department, differences over the Palestinians' future were deep. While no one was threatening a walkout, the pace was super-slow.
Eager to prove they mean business, Israeli negotiators handed the Palestinians "rather elaborate ideas" for limited self-rule. Chief Israeli negotiator Elyakim Rubinstein told reporters Tuesday: "We hope the Palestinians will be seriously considering them."
But at a cross-town news conference, Hanan Ashrawi, spokeswoman for the Palestinians, ridiculed the 10-page document, which Israeli sources said contained specific functions Palestinians would take over.
She said the proposals were preposterous, designed to perpetuate Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and to foster apartheid, or racial separation.
While Rubinstein provided no details, other sources said Israel proposed having Palestinians control their own justice, agriculture, education, taxation, tourism, social security and labor offices. They would set wages, social security benefits and otherwise "totally run" these departments, the sources told The Associated Press.