President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority says he would only accept an Israeli military presence in the West Bank for up to a three-year transition period if any peace deal to resolve the long-running conflict is reached.
“The borders of the Palestinian state will eventually be in the hands of Palestinians, not the Israeli Army,” Abbas said during a December interview that aired Tuesday at a security conference in Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post reports.
“Whoever proposes 10 or 15 years for a transition period does not want to withdraw,” Abbas said, adding that during the three-year transition period he supports, Israel would gradually withdraw from the contested area of the West Bank.
His comments were not immediately addressed by Israel. That could change Tuesday night when Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is due to speak at the same gathering.
A main unanswered question in the latest U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians is who would ensure security should Israel leave the West Bank. The Palestinians have repeatedly said no Israeli soldiers will be allowed to patrol in a future Palestinian state once the Israeli military pulls out. Countering Israel’s position that it can only rely on its own soldiers for security, Abbas suggested NATO would be “the suitable party.”