US-drafted security proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord accept almost all of Israel’s demands, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the Americans that he sees them as a good “basis for negotiation,” Israel’s Army Radio reported Tuesday.
While allowing for an Israeli military presence in the border area between Jordan and the West Bank, the plans would require the dismantling of all Israel’s settlements in the Jordan Valley, according to the report.
The proposals, discussed by US Secretary of State John Kerry with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on his recent visits here, infuriated Abbas, who last week went over Kerry’s head and wrote a letter of protest to US President Barack Obama about his concerns.
According to the Army Radio report, the Kerry plan provides for a massively upgraded border fence along the border between the West Bank and Jordan, with the IDF maintaining sole responsibility for the border for the first 10 years of a peace agreement. After that, border authority would be shared in some as-yet unfinalized constellation between Israel and the PA.
Netanyahu has insisted on retaining the IDF’s deployment at that border; Abbas has rejected it, while allowing for the possibility of an international force.
The Kerry plan, drawn up by retired US general John Allen, would see Israel’s Jordan Valley settlements dismantled, something that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon last week publicly opposed, saying that a civilian presence is critical to the maintenance of effective control.
Netanyahu, in responding to the Kerry plan, told the Americans to discuss the specifics with Ya’alon, in part because he knew that his defense minister would object to sections of it, the radio report said. Ya’alon is also reported to want the IDF to retain the right to enter any part of the West Bank if necessary to thwart terrorism.
The US, under the proposal, would provide an additional West Bank 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. Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, stressed on Tuesday morning that such intelligence would have “no value” whatsoever if Israeli soldiers were not deployed in the area to act upon it.
The plan was drawn up by a large team of US officials, on the basis of numerous discussions with top current and former Israeli officials, including chiefs of staff, Mossad heads and Shin Bet intelligence chiefs, the report said.
The Americans’ thinking is that if they can get Netanyahu’s agreement to the security plan, he might prove to be more flexible on other core issues of a peace accord, such as border demarcation, Palestinian refugee claims and Jerusalem, the report said.
Reports last week in the Hebrew press said that a December 6 meeting between Kerry and Abbas on the security arrangements in the Jordan Valley left Abbas fuming, sparking a “real crisis of faith” with the senior US official and prompting his letter to Obama.
In the letter, Abbas reportedly wrote that the Palestinians and Israelis had come to agreement on a plan during Ehud Olmert’s term as prime minister that would place an international force, not the IDF, on the Israeli-Jordanian border. The Palestinians, he said, would be amenable to a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Jordan Valley, but would not countenance an indefinite Israeli presence.
After a meeting with Abbas last week, an Arab League official said the PA president would not agree to even one Israeli soldier on the Palestinian-Jordanian border. He also indicated that Abbas refuses to acquiesce to a completely demilitarized Palestinian state, or recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, both key Israeli demands. Abbas would consent to a three-year Israeli military withdrawal process from the territories, according to an agreed-upon timeline, the official said.
The PA president is demanding control of “all East Jerusalem,” which would become the Palestinian capital, and would be open to one-for-one land swaps to adjust the Green Line, provided the territory to be swapped was of equivalent value, the official added.
Concerned that a final status agreement may not be possible by the end of the nine-month period that the two sides accepted when they resumed talks in July, Kerry in his recent visits aimed to push forward a framework accord that would contain the principles of a comprehensive pact. If an outline were achieved, the negotiations could be extended beyond the nine-month timeline.