US ambassador: Framework draft to be presented soon

Dan Shapiro says interim proposal for Israeli-Palestinian accord will cover security, borders, Jerusalem and all other ‘core issues’

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on October 21, 2013. (Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on October 21, 2013. (Flash90)

The US ambassador to Israel said Tuesday that a framework proposal on all issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be presented to both sides soon.

Dan Shapiro told Israel Radio that the proposal would cover security arrangements, borders, Jerusalem and all the other “core issues.”

He said it will be presented to the Israelis and the Palestinians in a few weeks’ time.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been visiting the region often since talks resumed last July, shuttling between Israel and Palestinian leaders to mediate talks.

Kerry has been pushing for the outlines of a peace deal. He is trying to nudge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu closer to a pact that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

He left the region on Monday having failed to win agreement from the sides on a framework for continued negotiations for a permanent deal. Some reports suggest he will return as soon as next week.

Netanyahu told his Likud Knesset faction Monday that “there is no American framework document yet,” and that even if it could be agreed upon, it would not be binding on the sides, Channel 2 reported. Netanyahu also assured the Likud MKs that he had not given in to American pressure for more flexible positions regarding the fate of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and said he was only too aware of the consequences of dismantling settlements in the absence of a viable peace accord, the report said.

Kerry has made 10 trips to the region this year, initially expressing confidence that a permanent peace accord, providing for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, could be wrapped up by the end of April. More recently, though, evidently realizing that this was a tall order, he has been pushing the less ambitious “framework” idea.

Netanyahu on Monday, however, reportedly told the Likud that even the framework plan, which Kerry has not yet been able to finalize, would not be binding on the two sides. The prime minister also said there would be elements in the non-binding paper that he and his party colleagues wouldn’t like, and elements that the Palestinians wouldn’t like.

The two sides have long been at odds over almost every aspect of the core issues involved in a two-state accord. Kerry has been reportedly pushing Netanyahu to agree to at least keep talking on the basis of a Palestinian state to be established along the pre-1967 lines, with land-swap adjustments, and urging Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Beyond these points, the two sides are said to disagree over security arrangements, border demarcations, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugee demands under a permanent deal. There have also been disputes over who will be released in a final phase of prisoner releases by Israel of terror convicts in the coming months. And it is unclear whether the Palestinians are prepared to extend the current talks beyond their scheduled expiry date in late April.

An official in Ramallah told Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam that the meetings recently held between Kerry and the Palestinian leadership failed to reach an agreement on any issue.

“We talked about everything, but without agreement on anything,” the official said in an article published Monday.

According to the newspaper, the Palestinians presented their positions on all the issues to Kerry, and are expecting to be presented with the positions of the US secretary of state for the framework agreement.

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