Israel mooted West Bank barrier 'as Palestinian border'

JERUSALEM - Israeli negotiators have told their Palestinian counterparts the separation barrier that cuts through the West Bank should serve as the border of a future Palestinian state, media reports said Tuesday.

Just hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry's arrival for top-level talks on ongoing direct peace negotiations, two press reports said the Israeli team had made the proposal.

"Israel's opening position was that the border be the route of the separation barrier, and not the 1967 lines as the Palestinians have demanded," public radio said.

And the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper carried an identical report.

Since the talks began in late July, ending a three-year freeze, the Palestinians have repeatedly complained about Israel's lack of clarity on the issue of borders.

The Palestinians insist that all negotiations be based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, when Israeli seized Gaza, the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected any return to the 1967 lines as "indefensible," saying that would not take into account the "demographic changes on the ground" over the past 46 years, in a clear euphemism for Jewish settlements.

Israel began work on its sprawling "security fence" in 2002 at the height of the second intifada, and has defended its construction as a crucial protective measure, pointing to a drop in attacks inside Israel as proof of its success.

But the Palestinians, who refer to its as the "apartheid wall," say the barrier is a land grab, pointing out that when complete, 85 per cent of it will have been built inside the West Bank.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding opinion declaring the barrier contrary to international law, but Israel has refused to comply with it.

Israel has resisted calls to route the barrier along the so-called Green Line, the armistice line that acted as a de facto border between 1949,when fighting ended after Israel was established, and the 1967 war.

Kerry's arrival in the region comes as a growing number of voices on both sides spoke of an impending crisis in the fledgling talks.

Israeli press reports have mooted a new US approach that would see Washington presenting the sides with a proposal for an interim agreement.

Kerry has flatly denied that.

"Let me categorically dispel any notion that there is anything other than the track that is formally engaged in between Israel and the Palestinians," he told reporters in Riyadh on Monday.

"There is no other plan at this point in time."