Secret map reveals Israel's West Bank plan

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The Independent Online
Israel plans to hand over only 40 per cent of the West Bank to the Palestinians instead of the 90 per cent they expected under the Oslo peace accords.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, showed the map, prepared by the Israeli army, to President Bill Clinton earlier in the year as a guide to the territory Israel would like to retain on the West Bank which it captured in the 1967 war, Israeli press reports say.

The map, published in the daily Haaretz yesterday, shows Palestinian control limited to two cantons north and south of Jerusalem, centred on Nablus and Hebron, but with no territorial link between the two. The paper says: "Prime Minister Netanyahu's secret map, which he intends to offer the PA [Palestinian Authority] during the permanent status negotiations, allows them less than 40 per cent of the territory."

Mr Netanyahu yesterday distanced himself from the map, saying he does not yet have a firm idea of what will be on offer to the Palestinians. However, the map is in keeping with his previous statements and its intention to severely limit the size of the Palestinian enclave was reportedly supported by seven ministers at a cabinet meeting this week.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said: "This is not acceptable. He [Mr Netanyahu] is negotiating with himself, or rather with himself and other extremists in his government. He has forgotten he has a partner."

The map shows Israel retaining sovereignty over all the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the Jordan valley, the hills east of Jerusalem and heavily settled areas close to the border with Israel. This does not leave much for the 1.1 million Palestinians on the West Bank. Surrounded by Israeli territory their economic future will entirely depend on Israel. Palestinians in and around Jerusalem will be isolated from the autonomous Palestinian entities.

Originally prepared by thearmy to show Israeli interests on the West Bank, the map underlines how far the Israeli government position has changed since the Interim Agreement of the Oslo accords was signed in 1995. This would have in effect ended the Israeli occupation of most of the West Bank. Mr Netanyahu has made clear that he has no such intention.

Some aspects of the plan are already being implemented. Traffic between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is increasingly using a new road which runs through the West Bank. An elaborate tunnel system links Jewish settlers in Gush Etzion and at Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, to Jerusalem and bypasses the Palestinian towns of Hebron and Bethlehem. The Council for Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza estimates that there now 160,000 settlers in 144 settlements.

The map also shows the West Bank as further bisected by "corridors" by which Israelis and Palestinians would pass through each other's territory. The only crumb of comfort for the Palestinians is that their territory might be expanded if the security situation warranted it.

Mr Netanyahu is in a strong political position to implement his plan for the West Bank. Palestinian and international protests over the construction of a new settlement at Har Homa, known to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, have ebbed away. The turning point internationally came when the United States, despite its disapproval of Har Homa, twice vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions against it. At Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt this week Mr Netanyahu showed that Har Homa does not stop him meeting with Arab leaders such as the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.

The Israeli leader is also under little pressure at home. The Labour party is still consumed by the battle to succeed Shimon Peres, its previous leader. Mr Netanyahu turns out to have suffered little damage from the scandal over his appointment of Roni Bar-On, a party hack, to be attorney- general. Dissidents in his cabinet are chastened. Above all the Palestinians have not reacted strongly, either through civil protests or guerrilla attacks, to Mr Netanyahu abandoning the intention of the previous government to end the occupation of all but 10 to 15 per cent of the West Bank.