In a sign of possible movement on the Israeli-Palestinian track, US Secretary of
State John Kerry said he had presented new security ideas to both Israel and the
Palestinians on Thursday.
While Reuters quoted an unnamed Palestinian
official as saying that the Palestinian Authority rejected the US security
arrangements, PA officials refused to comment on the issue.
who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the Palestinians rejected
Kerry’s ideas “because they would only lead to prolonging and maintaining the
Kerry is expected to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Friday morning for the third time in 24 hours for discussions on post-agreement
Kerry, who met on Thursday twice with Netanyahu
and once with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters
after the first meeting with Netanyahu that he and retired US Gen. John Allen
had proposed the new security ideas to Netanyahu.
Allen, who Kerry
described as “one of the very best military minds” in the US and one of its most
experienced military leaders, has been designated by US President Barack Obama
to assess the potential threats to Israel and the region from a future
Palestinian state, and come up with possible security arrangements that could be
implemented following an agreement.
Allen is a former commander of US
troops in Afghanistan.
The presentation of these ideas marks the first
time the US has actively interjected its own ideas into the negotiations and
could mark a more muscular US approach in the process.
One of the major
sticking points in the negotiations so far has been the Palestinian rejection of
an Israeli demand that Israel retain a security presence along the Jordan River
following any agreement.
Allen’s ideas, which he also presented to Abbas,
are believed to deal with security arrangements along the Jordanian
Netanyahu said alongside Kerry following their first meeting that
“Israel is ready for a historic peace” based on two states for two peoples. “It
is a peace that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, with our own
forces against any foreseeable threats.”
He called on the Palestinian
leadership to stop finger pointing and creating artificial crisis, and stressed
– an oblique reference to the ever-returning issue of settlement construction –
that Israel is honoring “all understandings” reached in the negotiations that
led to the current talks.
Kerry, who avoided any mention of the
settlements either in statements in Jerusalem or Ramallah, said a peace
agreement would need to “recognize Israel as a Jewish state” and enable it to be a country that “can defend itself by itself.”
A brief statement released
by Abbas’s office after their meeting quoted Abbas as saying that the goal of
the peace talks was to “achieve peace based on the principle of a two-state
solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with
Jerusalem as its capital.”
Abbas was quoted as warning that continued
settlement construction in the West bank and east Jerusalem neighborhoods would
“undermine efforts made by the US administration to reach positive results at
the current negotiations.”
Kerry told reporters after the meeting with
Abbas in Ramallah that the two sides discussed issues related to security for
Israelis and Palestinians. The US secretary of state said he believes some
progress has been made on this issue, but refused to elaborate. He suggested,
however, that he might return to the region next week to resume his mediation
“The interests are very similar, but there are questions of
sovereignty, questions of respect and dignity which are obviously significant to
the Palestinians, and for the Israelis very serious questions of security and
also of longer-term issues of how we end this conflict once and for all,” Kerry
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said after the Kerry-Abbas talks
that the situation remained “very difficult and matters were still
Kerry, who is scheduled to fly back to the US Friday
afternoon, canceled a planned visit to the Palmahim Air Force Base with Defense
Minister Moshe Ya’alon to make room for Friday’s meeting with
Ya’alon, along with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is
leading the negotiations with the Palestinians, and Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s
envoy to the talks, participated in the meetings Thursday with Kerry. Kerry is
expected to meet Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Friday as well, and will meet
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in Washington on Sunday.
Kerry are expected to address the annual Saban Forum in Washington on Saturday,
a forum that Netanyahu will address by video hook-up as well on Sunday.