In an attempt to re-energize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, US Secretary of State John Kerry intends to present a "framework agreement" to both sides by the end of the month, London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Sunday.
Quoting anonymous Arab League sources, the paper reported the agreement will include security measures meant to assuage both sides.
On two visits earlier this month Kerry presented to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu security “ideas” based on the work that a team of some 160 US officials, headed by retired US Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, drew up defining what it thought would be necessary for Israel’s security if a Palestinian state were created.
Those ideas reportedly included an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley for an extended period, between 10 and 15 years.
Netanyahu has for years been adamant in demanding an Israeli security presence – and not any kind of international force – along the Jordan River following a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Abbas, who rejected the proposal, sought the backing of the Arab League in an emergency meeting held on Saturday.
The Arab League also rejected the proposal, holding Israel responsible for “hindering” the peace talks with the Palestinians and calling to compel Israel to halt settlement construction.
Referring to Kerry’s proposal to maintain an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for several years, the Arab representatives reiterated their commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state “on all the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, with east Jerusalem as its capital,” in accordance with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and UN resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said there could be not one Israeli soldier in the territory of a future Palestinian state.
The Arab League was, however, willing to consider the deployment of international forces in the Jordan Valley, the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
On Wednesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a peace agreement will not be reached by the end of the set nine-month period that ends on April 29, but that he believed an initial "framework agreement" is possible.
That "framework agreement" would "specify the borders, percentage of the [land] swaps, security arrangements, Jerusalem status, refugees" and other core issues, Erekat said.
The PLO negotiator said the Palestinians would be willing to continue negotiations beyond the nine-month period if such a framework agreement is reached.
Following the signing of a framework agreement, Erekat estimated the two sides could reach a final accord in six to twelve months.
"Once you reach the framework agreement, between that day to reach a comprehensive treaty, on all core issues... you need six to 12 months in the best case," he said.
In an interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi published on Sunday, Erekat said the two sides are no longer meeting directly and are instead talking through American mediation.
"Meetings are now taking place between the US administration and us on the one hand, and between Israel and the US administration on the other hand," Erekat said.
Erekat also said none of the security ideas offered by the US to the two sides were written down, but rather expressed verbally so as to check reaction to the proposals first.
Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.
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