WikiLeaks: Israel's Netanyahu Supports Land Swaps

By Amy Teibel | November 30, 2010 | 9:25 AM EST

Jerusalem (AP) - A confidential diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the notion of land swaps with the Palestinians.

But an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the contents of a confidential conversation, said Tuesday that Netanyahu did not discuss land swaps.

Netanyahu has been very careful to keep his positions on Israel's future borders very close to the vest.

The Feb. 26, 2009 cable, dated two weeks after the Israeli leader was elected, says "Netanyahu expressed support for the concept of land swaps, and emphasized that he did not want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop attacks from being launched from there."

This sentence was contained in the cable summary but is not amplified in the section of the report that refers to peacemaking with the Palestinians.

"The prime minister never raised the issue of land swaps and the telegram does not quote him as saying so," the official who spoke on condition of anonymity said. "The elaborated part of the conversation shows that that in fact is the case."

U.S. Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer would not comment on the cable. He said the diplomat who signed off on it, Luis G. Moreno, had left Israel and could not immediately be reached.

Previous Israeli governments and the Palestinians have expressed support for the concept of trading West Bank land where Jewish settlements stand for Israeli territory. Netanyahu has not publicly voiced his opinion on this matter, though his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, favors redrawing Israel's borders to include settlements and exclude areas with large Arab populations.

The U.S. had hoped Israel would renew a moratorium on new settlement construction so it could try to reach an agreement with the Palestinians on future borders. But negotiations remain deadlocked over continued Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians claim for a future state along with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.