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Kerry presents new security plan to Netanyahu, Abbas
By HERB KEINON AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH
05/12/2013
Palestinians reportedly reject US proposal; PM Netanyahu: Israel is ready for "historic peace" with Palestinians.
 
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.

The official, 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 occupation.”

Kerry is expected to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday morning for the third time in 24 hours for discussions on post-agreement security arrangements.

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 border.

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 efforts.

“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 added.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said after the Kerry-Abbas talks that the situation remained “very difficult and matters were still complicated.”

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 Netanyahu.

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.

Obama and 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.
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