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Sharon adviser floats new Mideast peace ideas

Israel has presented to the United States and Europe ideas for a peace plan under which it would quit Gaza and hand over almost all of the West Bank except for major settlement blocs, a newspaper said on Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

Israel has presented to the United States and Europe ideas for a peace plan under which it would quit Gaza and hand over almost all of the West Bank except for major settlement blocs, a newspaper said on Thursday.

Political sources confirmed the report in Yedioth Ahronoth, which also said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s defeat on Sunday in a vote by his Likud party on a Gaza pullout could make pursuit of such a far-reaching plan with the Palestinians moot.

It was unclear from the report, which spoke of U.S., Jordanian and Egyptian “custodianship over Palestinian territories,” whether the proposal in the making included creation of a Palestinian state.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest newspaper, said Giora Eiland, the national security council chairman instrumental in planning the Gaza withdrawal rejected by the Likud, also authored the new ideas for a comprehensive peace.

“After the disengagement plan did not get approval in the Likud referendum, we need to look for a more comprehensive solution and not to simply make minor changes in the original plan,” Israel Radio quoted Eiland as saying in a speech.

After a nod from Sharon, the outlines of the draft were presented to U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer over the past few months, Yedioth reported.

Under the reported proposal, which the newspaper said was to be portrayed as a European initiative accepted by Israel:

  • Israel would pull out of all of the Gaza Strip and evacuate all of the 7,500 settlers in the area.
  • The Palestinians would get 89 percent of the West Bank, with the rest, containing major settlement blocs, remaining in Israeli hands. The territory to be handed over would be far greater than anything Sharon has shown willingness to part with.
  • Egypt would give the Palestinians a 230 square mile strip of territory inside its Sinai peninsula to relieve population congestion in Gaza.
  • Egypt would receive 77 square miles of land inside southern Israel, and a tunnel would be built connecting the enclave to Jordan.
  • The agreement would be signed at a peace conference convened by Egypt and with the participation of the president of the United States, European leaders and Russia.

It was not immediately clear whether Sharon had endorsed the ideas he allowed Eiland to float.

“Israel should stick to implementation of the road map and the signed agreements instead of searching for other ideas and other plans,” Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said.

The U.S.-backed “road map,” stalled by violence, calls for mutual steps leading to creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Eiland’s draft, which one political source described as subject to change, was drawn up as Sharon was putting together his unilateral Gaza pullout plan and trying to persuade the United States to endorse it as a move towards peace.