‘Kerry fails to get Obama backing to confront Israel on peace terms’

Israeli TV report says secretary’s plans for substantive framework deal have ‘pretty much collapsed’ in light of president’s stance

US Secretary of State John Kerry sought but failed to get backing from President Barack Obama to confront Israel over its objections to his peace proposals, and therefore his bid to try impose terms for peace on Israel and the Palestinians has “pretty much collapsed,” an Israeli TV report claimed on Sunday night.

Citing unnamed sources close to the negotiations, Channel 10 news said that Kerry, who had hoped to impose a binding “framework” agreement on the two sides, covering all the key core issues for a peace agreement, sought Obama’s “political backing for confrontation primarily with Israel,” but got the presidential cold-shoulder. It was deemed that now was “not the time for such moves” for the president, the report said.

As a result, Kerry’s effort to put together a substantive framework agreement “has pretty much collapsed for now.”

There was no independent confirmation of the report.

The document the secretary is finalizing, the TV report said, still includes clauses providing for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines and for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. But its formulation regarding Jerusalem, a “very problematic” clause for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is “amorphous,” the report said.

Critically, the report noted, the status of the framework accord is no longer to be binding on the sides.

The emerging framework document is so unthreatening even to Israeli hardliners that it is unlikely to prompt any kind of coalition crisis, the TV report said.

Kerry himself said in a Washington Post interview published Saturday that Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would have a chance to “express reservations” over the framework agreement, adding that such caveats provide “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.”

Sunday night’s TV report said that Kerry’s intention was that the framework agreement, however emptied of substance or authority, would govern talks that would continue for the rest of the year. However, when Kerry announced the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks last July, he set a nine-month time period, during which he said he aimed to broker a full, permanent peace accord. Those nine months end in April, and the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said last week he saw no reason for extending the talks beyond that deadline.

Reports last weekend suggested that Netanyahu and his senior colleagues were inclining to accept the framework accord as a non-binding document. Persistent reports have indicated, by contrast, that the Palestinians intend to reject it, and are already preparing for a legal and diplomatic war against Israel.

With his framework accord so weakened, the Channel 10 report said, Kerry would now face an even greater challenge to persuade the Palestinians to accept it.

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