With US Secretary of State John Kerry set to arrive Tuesday night, the press is abuzz with speculation as to what the American diplomat will bring to the table for the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Kerry’s arrival seeks to “calm the tension” between the two sides, writes Maariv, amid charges by the Palestinians that Israel’s settlement expansion is a flagrant provocation. The paper cites “a source close to the negotiations” who says that the secretary of state will put forward a new proposal that came about as a result of Kerry’s recent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome.
“For Kerry, in this meeting there was a kind of sobering up, perhaps even a shattering of naivete,” the paper quotes its source saying. “He understood that Netanyahu had considerations of his own and that a final status agreement isn’t as attainable as thought.”
It reports that the US has yet to formulate its proposal: “At this stage it is too early to know whether the US will publish the document presenting its positions, and if it does so, it’s not clear what the document will include.”
According to Haaretz, however, the US will present its proposal to “break out of the deadlock” within two or three months, and it will include “principles for a final status Israeli-Palestinian [agreement].” The paper says Kerry, despite assertions to the contrary, will present the proposal if negotiations continue to be stalled. The paper quotes a source in Jerusalem saying Israel would be open to any proposal that protects its essential interests.
In rare form for the traditionally left-wing paper, it features an op-ed by Moshe Arens that questions Abbas’s interest in a peace agreement because of the spectacle of the Palestinian prisoner release last week. Arens compares the scene last week in Ramallah to the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan, the controversial memorial to those who died protecting the motherland — including convicted war criminals such as Hideki Tojo.
Cognizant of the political sensitivity of visiting Yasukuni, Arens notes that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has refrained from doing so and avoided enraging China and South Korea. “No such good judgment was demonstrated by Mahmoud Abbas,” Arens writes, “as he festively welcomed in Ramallah the Palestinians prisoners released by Israel in the latest Israeli ‘goodwill gesture.’”
“He obviously had no concern or even sympathy for the feelings of the families of the victims murdered by the men who were released from prison,” he writes. “He shows little consideration for the feelings of the people of Israel, seeing these murderers go free. Can this be considered a sign that he truly wants to make peace with Israel?”
Rather than get ourselves into another “bad situation” like the prisoner release, he writes, quoting Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, “the government should spend some time analyzing the process that has led to this unfortunate decision, so that ‘situations’ like this can be avoided in the future.”
Yedioth Ahronoth leaks what it claims are the first juicy details about the peace talks. Most of the details are mundane: 15 meetings of three to four hours each. Either side will deliver a presentation, after which the representatives will negotiate.
“One of the dramatic issues that were already put on the table was Jerusalem. The details are not clear but one of the discussions talked about an area ‘in which there will be open access to both sides,’” Yedioth reports.
The paper also reports that Justice Minister and negotiations chief Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu’s emissary, Yitzhak Molcho, on more than one occasion butted heads in front of their Palestinian counterparts and presented differing opinions. On the issue of Jerusalem, it writes, “Molcho demanded reducing the area to as small as possible, but Livni presented a more liberal stance.”
During a recent meeting between American, Palestinian and Israeli representatives at Kerry’s house in Washington, Yedioth Ahronoth writes, the secretary of state said that “if the sides don’t reach an agreement within the allotted nine months, he can no longer stop the Palestinians from joining the International Criminal Court.”
Following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statement Monday that the negotiations were going nowhere, Israel Hayom quotes Netanyahu saying that the Palestinians haven’t changed their negotiation stance since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Citing an interview with i24 News, the paper quotes the prime minister saying, “If they can’t even stand behind the agreements we’ve already reached — we’re releasing prisoners but continuing to build — then how can I see that they will uphold the larger issues which will require them [to deal] with much larger conflicts with public opinion and positions in their society?”
“If you want to lead, get up and do the difficult things. I did this and I expect the Palestinians to do so, too,” Netanyahu is quoted saying.