US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Friday evening to discuss a framework agreement that will address the outlines of a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Abbas and Kerry, who arrived in the region Thursday, are expected to meet again Saturday morning. At the end of that scheduled meeting, some “declarations” may be released to the media, reported Israel Radio.
Kerry has said Israel and the Palestinians will have to face tough choices in the coming week. Speaking Thursday at a joint press conference — before the first of several planned meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Kerry said leaders on both sides already knew what would be contained in a US-drafted framework agreement, and added that an agreement was not “mission impossible.” Kerry met with Netanyahu on Thursday and again on Friday.
Netanyahu is reportedly ready to continue talks on the basis of the framework deal, which has not been made public, even if it references a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines — provided he is not required to sign it.
But a framework accord may not be enough to secure a subsequent face-to-face meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas, an indication of the wide gaps that remain.
Kerry’s security proposals, which reportedly provide for the presence of IDF troops to secure the West Bank-Jordanian border after a permanent deal is reached, have reportedly been rejected by Abbas. The sides also differ widely on possible land-swap arrangements, and are reportedly deadlocked on some core issues, including Jerusalem and the repatriation of refugees and their descendants.
Kerry arrived in Israel Thursday amid reported plans by Netanyahu to authorize the construction of 1,400 homes over the pre-1967 Green Line — 600 in East Jerusalem and 800 in nearby West Bank settlements. Abbas has urged the US to block the plans and on Tuesday threatened to rally the UN against Israel’s settlements, which he termed a “cancer.”
Israeli officials decided to delay announcing plans for new settlement construction until after Kerry leaves the region.
Earlier Friday, during a meeting with the US secretary, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman stressed that, although dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians was “important,” any preliminary accord would leave many issues unresolved.
Liberman cited the Palestinian refugees as an example of such an issue, and said nearly three million refugees would need to be integrated into the Palestinian state, a scenario that could lead to unrest.
“It is likely that, after an agreement is reached, some other countries in the region will want to transfer the Palestinian refugees who currently reside in their territory,” he said, according to Channel 2 News.
“That would mean that, to the 800,000 Palestinians who live in the Palestinian Authority today, about three million refugees will be added, and this may make the humanitarian situation there very difficult. This will bring frustration, violence and a security deterioration.”
The foreign minister suggested that issues such as refugees be addressed sooner rather than later, before the signing of an interim agreement.
Yifa Yaakov and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report