Netanyahu wants Israeli troops, not international force, on border of future Palestinian state

By Amy Teibel, AP
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Premier wants Israeli troops at Palestinian border

JERUSALEM — Israel’s leader is demanding that Israeli troops remain on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state, further antagonizing the Palestinians at a time when they are already threatening to walk out of peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that an Israeli troop presence along the border with Jordan is essential to keep Palestinian militants from smuggling in weapons to the West Bank after a peace deal is reached.

On Monday, he drove home this position in great detail — scoring no diplomatic points with the Palestinians, who flatly reject the idea as an infringement of their prospective sovereignty. They have proposed that an international force be deployed instead.

“I don’t believe that under these circumstances, international troops will do the job,” he said in a conference call with U.S. Jewish leaders. “The only force that can be relied on to defend the Jewish people is the Israeli Defense Force.”

That will never happen, said Palestinian spokesman Husam Zomlot. He said “not one Israeli soldier” will be permitted to remain in a future Palestinian state.

“An international presence will be able to monitor and enforce security once the political situation has been sorted (out),” Zomlot said.

The flare-up further complicated the U.S.-backed peace talks, which are already on the verge of collapse just three weeks after they were launched in Washington.

The sides are deadlocked over the looming end to an Israeli slowdown in West Bank settlement construction on Sunday. Netanyahu says the curb cannot be extended.

The Palestinians, backed by the U.S. and other world powers, want Israel to extend the 10-month construction slowdown, hoping that would create the goodwill needed to prod talks ahead.

The settlements, home to some 300,000 Israelis, dot the West Bank, gobbling up territory claimed by the Palestinians. The Palestinians say that further expansion makes it ever more difficult to establish a viable state.

Netanyahu maintains that his coalition government, dominated by hard-line parties that champion settlement construction, would be fractured if the slowdown were to be extended.

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