The Palestinian negotiating team rejected an American peace plan that would involve an Israeli military presence along the Jordan Valley highway, located five kilometers (three miles) from the Jordanian border, after the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
Contrary to earlier reports, the proposed final-status arrangement would see IDF control of a broad corridor in the Jordan Valley — not just a minimal stationing of Israeli soldiers along the border — for the first 10 years after the signing of a peace deal, Channel 10 News reported Tuesday.
According to the TV report, the plan — formulated by retired US general John Allen and presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a recent visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry — ensured a more significant Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley than previously reported. Earlier reports suggested that Allen’s plan stationed IDF troops on the Jordanian border, but Channel 10 cited “sources knowledgeable with the negotiations” as saying it entailed an IDF presence along Route 90, the major north-south artery five kilometers west of the frontier.
Last week, the Palestinians said they rejected any proposal that didn’t stipulate the removal of all IDF soldiers from a future Palestinian state.
A senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that after Kerry pitched the proposal, the meeting between the secretary of state and Abbas turned to “worse than bad.”
The presence of Israeli soldiers in the Jordan valley in a final agreement is a point of contention between Netanyahu and his chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
According to a September report in the Israeli daily Maariv, Livni supports the introduction of international forces to the Jordan Valley, similar to the expanded role UNIFIL received in southern Lebanon under Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and which Livni was appointed by the government to oversee.
Netanyahu, however, adamantly opposes international forces, insisting on an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley even within the framework of a Palestinian state.
The prime minister recently ordered the government to begin construction on a major upgrade of the existing security fence along the Jordanian border, including the section of the border inside the West Bank.
Abbas, who vehemently rejects Netanyahu’s demands, reportedly turned down Kerry’s offer and said that an Israeli presence in the Jordanian Valley would undermine the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state.
Concerned that a final status agreement may not be possible by the May target date that the two sides accepted when they resumed talks in August, Kerry in his recent visit aimed to push forward a framework accord that would contain the principles of a comprehensive pact, but not specific details.
If an outline were achieved, the negotiations could be extended beyond the nine-month timeline originally set by Kerry.
US officials stressed that an agreement on all issues by May is the US’s number one goal for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
But should that prove unworkable, they said a framework agreement would buy time for additional negotiations.
A framework accord, the officials said, would be a “logical step” on the path to a final status agreement.
AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report