Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of agreeing to the deployment of NATO or other international forces to replace the IDF in the Jordan Valley under a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians, Israeli officials said Saturday night.
The officials were quoted by Israel’s Channel 2 as saying that Netanyahu insists that “only the IDF” can provide security for Israel in the Jordan Valley, and wherever else is necessary in the West Bank.
They spoke hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry told The Washington Post that the question of a third party force deploying in or around a Palestinian state “is something for the parties to work out.”
Kerry, in an interview with the US paper, acknowledged that “Netanyahu has made it clear he doesn’t want NATO [in the Jordan Valley].” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, by contrast, has said he would accept NATO forces replacing the IDF to meet Israeli security needs, after a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Jordan Valley and elsewhere that he said could take place over five years in the wake of an accord. Israel fears that the potentially porous border between Jordan and a future Palestinian state would allow the transfer of weapons and terror activists that would threaten Israel.
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said Friday that he would have withdrawn the IDF from the Jordan Valley under the terms of a peace deal he was negotiating with Abbas. “There was a model for a solution,” he said in a Channel 2 interview, that was accepted by Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan, without an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, but with provisions for the deployment of Israeli forces in emergency situations. Olmert lamented in the interview that he still doesn’t know why Abbas didn’t take his 2008 peace offer.
Kerry, who is seeking to finalize a “framework” agreement under which Israel and the Palestinians would continue peace talks beyond the agreed April deadline, said in the Washington Post interview that Netanyahu and Abbas would have a chance to “express reservations” about the terms of the framework, since this was ”the only way for them to politically be able to keep the negotiations moving… For them as leaders to be able to embrace an endgame, they need to have the right to be able to have some objection.”
Kerry is understood to be seeking to complete the framework deal, covering all core issues of negotiations, by the end of this month. Netanyahu is set to fly to Washington for the annual AIPAC pro-Israel lobby’s policy conference, and would likely meet with President Barack Obama at the White House during that visit, as he has done in years past.