Israel's attorney-general stood firm Sunday on his opinion that UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, key planks of the Middle East peace process, did not oblige the Jewish state to hand land to the Palestinians.
Elyakim Rubinstein's view has been attacked by the Palestinians and the United States, and on Sunday Justice Minister Yossi Beilin also said the attorney-general was wrong.
Speaking on public radio, Rubinstein repeated what he wrote in the Israeli press Thursday, saying that 242 and 338, which call for Israel to pull out from territory it occupied in the June 1967 war and start talks, did not apply to the Palestinians.
Israel was not required to give up the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority because no such body existed when the UN passed the resolution, he argued.
Rubinstein said he had spoken with the agreement of Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, in reply to Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's demand that every metre (yard) of land occupied in 1967 be given to the Palestinians in a peace settlement.
"We wanted to make it clear that the borders with the Palestinians must be defined in negotiations," he added.
But Beilin retorted that 242 and 338 were the basis of the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians. "That is an international commitment, and no legal interpretation can alter that fact.
Arafat, speaking at the weekly meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank town of Ramallah Friday, accused Israel of attempting to destroy the whole peace process.
In comments reported by the Palestinian agency WAFA, he added "the Israeli mistrust of international resolutions, particularly 242, clearly reveals the Israeli government's challenge to international law and its resolutions."
Arafat called on the UN Security Council and its general assembly to make Israel abide by international resolutions.
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said later Friday "Resolutions 242 and 338 have been the cornerstone of the US approach to the Middle East for 30 years."
Boucher said the 1967 UN resolution is the "framework that we've always worked in and it's the one we believe we should continue to work in."
"It's our view that all negotiations should be based on Resolutions 242 and 338 -- all negotiations between Israel and the Arabs, including the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians," the spokesman added.
Resolution 242 of 1967 calls for Israel to withdraw from land it occupied in that year and Resolution 338, passed in 1973, calls for talks to start "aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East." - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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