WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will soon present a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that the sides may accept with reservations as a basis for a final deal by year’s end, the top US negotiator told Jewish leaders.
Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on Thursday that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would remain in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state.
Indyk said the framework would be presented to the sides within weeks, and that there will be “no surprises” for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, according to four people who were on the off the record call.
This was because Indyk and Secretary of State John Kerry consulted closely with the leaders of both governments as Indyk’s team drafted the agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas would be expected to accept the agreement, with reservations, as the basis of continued negotiations, Indyk apparently said.
Making it a US-drafted framework permitted the leaders to distance themselves from politically sensitive issues, Indyk said. “There may be things we need to say because they can’t say them yet,” he said, according to the notes of one participant.
Broadly, Indyk said, the agreement will address: mutual recognition; security, land swaps and borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and the end of conflict and all claims.
A request for comment from the State Department was not returned.
On some sensitive issues — particularly the status of Jerusalem — the framework would be vague, but Indyk went into detail on other issues that participants said was surprising.
Among these was the security arrangement for the border between Jordan and the West Bank: Indyk said a new security zone would be created, with new fences, sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Indyk also said that the framework would address compensation for Jews from Arab lands as well as compensation for Palestinian refugees — another longstanding demand by some pro-Israel groups but one that has yet to be included in any formal document.
He said that the framework would describe “Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people,” a nod to a key demand by the Netanyahu government that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
He said the framework would address the issue of incitement and Palestinian education for peace.
Indyk confirmed that Kerry had already warned lawmakers who deal with foreign funding that the framework would require major US funding, particularly for the new Jordanian-West Bank border arrangements, the redeployment of the Israeli army, and the compensation for refugees on both sides.
Indyk was relaxed and jovial throughout the call, participants said, at one point chiding callers for not asking about Palestinian incitement, considering it always comes up when he talks to Jewish communities and in his meetings with Israeli officials.
A participant said Indyk still seemed rankled, however, by a report earlier this month that Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon dismissed the security proposals as “not worth the paper they were written on.” Indyk said this was “deeply insulting” to US Gen. John Allen, who worked for months on the proposals.
One party to the call said Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, told participants that the parties will ultimately agree to extend negotiations beyond the nine-month timeline, expiring in April, which was first agreed upon in late July. The sides, he said, will negotiate with the expectation of reaching a final deal by the end of 2014.
Indyk also promised participants that the framework that is expected to be adopted in coming weeks will be made public in order to initiate a public debate. He expressed hope that the discussion will show leaders that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a peace plan – but acknowledged that stiff opposition would make it very difficult to continue toward a final agreement.