Palestinians reject US proposal for 10-year IDF presence in Jordan Valley

Official PA daily reports Kerry-Abbas meeting last week turned ‘worse than bad’ after plan was pitched

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, December 5, 2013.  (photo caption: AP/Mohamad Torokman, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, December 5, 2013. (photo caption: AP/Mohamad Torokman, Pool)

An American proposal that Israel station IDF soldiers in the Jordan Valley for the first 10 years after the signing of a peace deal with the Palestinians has garnered angry reactions from Palestinian leaders.

The proposal was made by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a meeting last week in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported.

A senior Palestinian official was quoted in the report to the effect that after Kerry made the suggestion, the meeting between him and Abbas turned to “worse than bad.”

According to the official, Palestinian leaders saw Kerry reneging on security proposals presented earlier in the current round of US-brokered peace talks by Jim Jones, the former Obama administration national security adviser who serves as the State Department special envoy for Middle East security.

Jones had reportedly suggested that a NATO force, led by the US, be stationed in the Jordan Valley.

According to Kerry’s proposal, the Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley would include an “invisible” Israeli presence in the border crossings between the West Bank and Jordan and Israeli early warning stations on the eastward slopes of the West Bank highlands, the official said.

The 10-year period of Israeli military deployment would be used to train Palestinian forces to take over responsibility for the border, Kerry had said, according to Al-Ayyam.

On Sunday, Abbas met with the American consul general in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney, and formally rejected the proposal, saying that the Palestinian position was “unequivocal”: no Israeli presence, though the Palestinians would tolerate a third-party military presence.

“The Americans have started talking about security arrangements that completely adopt the Israeli point of view, whether regarding the Jordan Valley, the border crossings, or the [West Bank’s] airspace,” the unnamed official charged.

Israel’s demand for a military presence in the Jordan Valley had nothing to do with security, but reflected Israel’s political gluttony, the official claimed.

In a briefing to EU parliamentarians last week, former Fatah security official Mohammad Dahlan complained that the negotiations were rehashing proposals for the Jordan Valley that Israel had already agreed to at the Camp David talks 13 years ago, including the idea of an international military presence.

Kerry was unexpectedly heading back to Israel Wednesday for more talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas.

Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.

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