The US is preparing a plan that provides for Israeli security and Palestinian
sovereignty, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday even as Palestinians
continued to reject some of Israel’s basic security demands, such as an IDF
presence in the Jordan Valley.
Kerry told a reporter in Tel Aviv that the
third of four promised releases of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli
jails will take place on December 29.
“We are working on an approach that
both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty,”
He flew out of Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday for Asia, after a
brief one-day visit. He met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem
on Friday morning and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in
Ramallah on Thursday night.
On Thursday night, John Allen, a former
four-star Marine Corps general, presented Abbas with security plans, Kerry
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Abbas’s spokesman, said the Palestinians “won’t
accept any Israeli presence on our land.”
Palestinian officials added
that the latest meeting did not lead to any breakthrough.
But Kerry said
he remained optimistic that a final-status agreement could be reached by April
and rejected the possibility of an interim deal.
“Our goal remains as it
always has been – for the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final-status
agreement – not an interim agreement, a final-status agreement,” Kerry said.
“And both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at
the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for
As part of those talks, he said, all the core issues are on the
table, including: borders; security; refugees; Jerusalem; mutual recognition; an
end to the conflict; and an end to all claims by both sides.
obviously a key issue,” Kerry said. “So we have a major interest in being able
to make certain that both Palestinians and Israelis, when they reach final
status, have the ability to be able to deal with their mutual security interests
and their independent security interests.”
The US is committed to both
Israeli and Palestinian security, Kerry said.
“Everybody knows that we
have had a long-time commitment to the security of Israel.
willingness and readiness to defend the State of Israel is ironclad,” Kerry
A final status agreement for a two-state solution is in Israel’s
best security interest, Kerry added, saying both he and US President Barack
Obama remained “hopeful and confident” that such a deal could be
Kerry thanked both Netanyahu and Abbas for their commitment to
the process. The Prime Minister’s Office said it had no comment on Netanyahu’s
talk with Kerry, which lasted for four hours.
But the Palestinians said
they were skeptical and pessimistic.
“The success of the talks requires
big efforts,” said Abu Rudaineh.
There won’t be peace without the release
of all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, he added.
As a gesture to
allow for the nine-month negotiation process, Israel agreed to release 104
Palestinian security prisoners in four separate batches during the talks. So
far, there have been two releases.
“President Abbas rejected the idea of
delaying the release of the third batch of Palestinian prisoners, slated for the
end of December,” Abu Rudaineh said.
A PA official told AFP that Abbas
rejected the American security ideas. The official said Abbas delivered a letter
to Kerry informing him of his opposition to the ideas. In the letter Abbas
reiterated his complete opposition to demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish
state, the official said.
The letter, according to the official, outlined
the Palestinians’ opposition to any Israeli military presence on the border with
Jordan. The official pointed out that the Palestinians were not opposed to the
presence of a third party in the Jordan Valley.
Another PA official said
no progress was achieved during the last Abbas-Kerry meeting.
official stressed that talks between the Palestinians and Americans would
continue to try to find an acceptable formula that would allow Kerry to bring
forward his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In a related development,
the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency quoted “informed sources” as saying that
Kerry is working toward holding a summit between Abbas and
Kerry had planned a long meeting with Abbas in Ramallah, but
had to cut it short when it became clear that the roads would soon become
impassible due to snow. Kerry, according to a source, reportedly offered to take
the wheel of the motorcade, saying that since he was from Boston, he was used to
driving in this weather.
“We had a very interesting evening last night
which unfortunately was a little bit cut short because of the road conditions
and the need for us to be able to get back from Ramallah to Jerusalem,” he said.
“So we did not have as long a session as I had hoped.
And we had,
obviously, an enormous challenge in the weather.”
He mentioned the
weather again before his meeting with Netanyahu that took place as a snow storm
“Well, I’ve heard of making your guests welcome and
feeling at home,” he joked. “This is about as far as I’ve ever seen anybody go,
giving me a nice New England snow storm.”
Although the roads to Jerusalem
were closed, a path to the airport was cleared for Kerry’s motorcade.
Hartman contributed to this report.