US Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing for a tripartite meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his current visit to the region, Channel 2 reported.
Kerry landed at Ben Gurion Airport Thursday evening and immediately met with Abbas in Ramallah. He is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Friday. He was reportedly accompanied by former US general John Allen, architect of the security plan proposed by the US during Kerry’s visit last week. The plan has been warily received by Israel, and heavily criticized by Palestinian officials.
According to Israeli television reports, Kerry is seeking to push Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach a “framework agreement” by the end of January in an attempt to break the deadlocked talks that began in July.
The US hopes to reach a framework accord that outlines and enshrines the principles that the final status agreement would cover, according to US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The officials insisted the US is not dictating the terms but rather trying to get the two sides to agree on what those terms should be.
Abbas told Sky News Arabia on Thursday that the Palestinians would not accept an interim deal, but would accept “a final agreement that can be implemented in stages.”
According to an Israeli official who spoke to Channel 2, after 20 meetings between chief negotiators Tzipi Livni, Saeb Erekat and American envoy Martin Indyk, negotiations between the two sides are “frozen.”
Last week, after detailing reported elements of the American security proposal, Israeli media said that Kerry intended to set out American proposals in the near future to resolve the other core issues — Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state, and the Palestinian refugees.
Channel 2 news reported that Israel, though it was “not satisfied” with the security proposals, had not rejected them. The Palestinian Authority was reported to have rejected them, but denied this. Launching the current Israeli-Palestinian talks in late July, Kerry expressed confidence that a permanent peace accord ending the conflict could be reached within the following nine months; almost half of that period has now elapsed.
Kerry left Israel last Friday after three meetings in two days with Netanyahu and one session with Abbas. He was accompanied this time by Allen, who detailed the American plan for security arrangements.
Kerry said last Friday that “the people who really know what’s going on” in the negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides on a permanent accord “aren’t talking about it.” But reports of the security plan’s content leaked out over Thursday and Friday.
Among its key elements, the US security plan reportedly provides for a series of border crossings along the Jordan Valley border between the West Bank and Jordan which would be jointly controlled by Israel and the PA. The entire border itself, however, would remain under full Israeli control, with the IDF joined only by a symbolic Palestinian security presence, for 10-15 years. These arrangements would hold for many years, but not necessarily permanently, the Channel 2 report said, the implication being that in a future new era of stability and mutual confidence, Israel might transfer more authority to the Palestinians.
The US, under the proposal, would provide an additional security “envelope,” which would utilize drones and other high-tech equipment to provide real-time intelligence on any terrorist threats and other unlawful border activity.
Netanyahu has insisted on an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley. The PA is firmly opposed to any ongoing Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley or elsewhere in its intended state.
AP contributed to this report.