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Kerry returns to region to continue pushing Abbas, Netanyahu
By HERB KEINON AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH
12/12/2013
Kerry meets Abbas first, Netanyahu on Friday; John Allen, working on security ideas for accord, joins Kerry for Abbas meeting.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Israel for the 11th time this year, this time going directly to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in what appears to be an effort to soften him to US security ideas presented last week to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Kerry was accompanied to the meeting by Marine Corps Gen. (ret.) John Allen, head of a 160-strong US defense and intelligence team that has drawn up a plan for the day after an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Allen briefed Netanyahu on the plan last week when he was here with Kerry, and this will be his first meeting with Abbas.

The Palestinians have come out against the plan, which is believed to include an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley for an extended period.

Abbas told Sky News Arabia Television on Thursday that he would not accept a single Israeli soldier on Palestinian territory.

“If America wants to protect the security of Israel, they can go there [to the Jordan Valley], but we will not accept Israel being there,” he said.

A PA official in Ramallah said that Abbas would reiterate during his meeting with Kerry his opposition to the recent US security ideas. The official claimed that Kerry has been exerting enormous pressure on Abbas to accept the US security proposals.

“Kerry has endorsed the Israeli position on security and borders,” the official charged.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an Israel Radio interview, however, that Israel must retain its security in its own hands. He said that although he understood this would be “hard for the Palestinians to swallow,” they would have to accept that “Israel has security interests it cannot forgo, and if they want peace, they must make significant compromises.”

Unlike previous trips here, when the pattern has been that Kerry first meets with Netanyahu, then goes to Abbas, and returns for a follow-up meeting with the prime minister, this time the meeting with Netanyahu will take place on Friday after Kerry meets with Abbas.

Kerry is also scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres Friday, before leaving for Vietnam and the Philippines.

One of the ideas that Kerry brought with him was of a marathon negotiating summit to draw up a framework that would enable a continuation of the talks that have been taking place since late July, Channel 2 reported. The thinking, according to the report, is that to create a breakthrough in the talks, there is a need to bring matters to the leadership level for decisions.

US President Barack Obama said last week at the Saban Forum in Washington that it was possible “over the next several months to arrive at a framework that does not address every single detail, but gets us to a point where everybody recognizes [it is] better to move forward than move backward.”

Abbas, however, said in the Sky News Arabia Television that a framework accord could delay a full resolution of the conflict.

“We will not accept an interim deal. We will accept a final agreement that can be implemented in stages,” he said.

Obama said on Saturday that the Palestinians would have to “recognize that there is going to be a transition period where the Israeli people cannot expect a replica of Gaza in the West Bank.”

This transition period would require “some restraint on the part of the Palestinians,” he said.

“They don’t get everything that they want on day one.”

Abbas said that the PA’s main goal was to reach a deal with security and clear borders, where Jerusalem would be the capital of the future Palestinian state. “We can’t accept any agreement that does not include Jerusalem as our capital,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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