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Interim Mideast peace deal urged

Israeli Yair Lapid, a popular former TV anchorman,

Israeli Yair Lapid, a popular former TV anchorman, head of the new centrist party Yesh Atid, delivers a speech in the Ariel college of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel. (Oct. 30, 2012) Credit: AP

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior coalition partner says that reaching a final peace agreement with the Palestinians is unrealistic at the current time and the sides should instead pursue an interim arrangement.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid's assessment, delivered in an interview Sunday just days before the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, throws a contentious idea into the mix as the U.S. searches for ways to restart peace talks.

With the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians on many key issues seemingly unbridgeable, pursuing a Palestinian state with temporary borders has emerged as an option recently, particularly among Israelis searching for a way out of the status quo. The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected this option, fearing an interim deal that falls short of their hopes will become permanent.

To allay Palestinian concerns, Lapid told the Yediot Ahronot daily that President Barack Obama should set a three-year timeline for determining the final borders of a Palestinian state. As a gesture to the Israelis, he also called on Obama to endorse the position laid out by President George W. Bush in 2004, allowing Israel to keep some of the Jewish settlements it has built on occupied lands.

The Palestinians have refused to negotiate on the settlements, saying that continued Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is a sign of bad faith. -- AP

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