Yossi Beilin: Netanyahu would agree to an interim Palestinian state

By Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to agree to the creation of a Palestinian state in provisional borders, even before his conditions for a final-status agreement are met, former minister and veteran peace activist Yossi Beilin said.
“I don’t think that Netanyahu, who is far from being a warmonger — he’s a very cautious person — [is ready to commit to] a permanent solution. Not because he doesn’t want it — all of us want it — but because he’s not ready to pay the price,” Beilin said Monday night. “But to speak about a provisional border with the Palestinians, this is something that I heard from him that we would be ready to do it.”
Geneva Initiative delegation meeting with President Abbas (from left to right: Chief Palestinain negotiator, Saeb Erekat, Chairman of the Geneva Initiative, Yossi Beilin, President Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Geneva Initiative, Yasser Abed Rabbo, and MK Shlomo Molla)
Speaking in English at a debate in front of Jewish-American leaders visiting Jerusalem, Beilin said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are presently not ready to agree to terms for a permanent settlement. Yet both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be willing to go ahead with an interim agreement, which would include a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps, so that major settlement blocs would remain in Israel, Beilin said. The delicate questions of Jerusalem and refugees would not be addressed immediately but held for final-status talks down the line, according to Beilin.
Although Netanyahu used to fiercely oppose a Palestinian state, he has now understood “that there is no other solution but to divide” the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river, said Beilin.
“I appreciate Netanyahu. I know him well. I believe that I know, more-or-less, his room for maneuver, and I talked to him. And listening to him, I believe that an interim solution like that can be realistic,” he said.
Government spokesman Mark Regev refused to confirm Netanyahu’s willingness to pursue any such interim agreement. “The prime minister remains ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever,” he told The Times of Israel. “The Bar-Ilan formula remains his goal: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.” (Netanyahu set out his two-state vision in a speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009.)
Beilin, who played a significant role in initiating secret talks with the Palestinians that resulted in the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, said his own provisional plan does not mean giving up on a long-term vision for a two-state solution in which all outstanding issues are addressed and which would lead to an end of the conflict.
“Okay Netanyahu, you got the mandate from the people,” he said, referring to the outcome of the January 22 elections. “You want to have a Palestinian state, that’s what you said to us, that’s what you said to the world. You have a majority of 108 members of Knesset who agree with you; only 12 of them are on the extreme right,” Beilin said, referring to the Jewish Home party, which explicitly rejects the idea of Palestinian statehood.
“All others at least formally agree to the idea,” Beilin went on, making a contentious assertion given the opposition to Palestinian statehood among many incoming Likud-Beytenu MKs. Change something on the ground,” he urged the prime minister. “Show that you are ready to understand the international situation.”
Beilin’s plan for a Palestinian state in provisional borders would allow Jewish Israelis living outside the major settlement blocs to remain in their houses, knowing that they would come under Palestinian sovereignty. Abbas had agreed to such an arrangement in 1995, he said.
Ex-MK Beilin, a former Labor justice minister and later head of the left-wing Meretz party, was addressing the board of governors of the American Jewish Committee, which is currently in the region. The US-Jewish leaders have met with Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Jordanian King Abdullah II, and were scheduled to meet with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah on Tuesday.