US Secretary of State John Kerry is working on a document spelling out America’s
basic principles for a peace agreement that both sides – with reservations – are
to agree to follow as a framework for continuing Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations, Israeli officials said Monday.
The comments came as Kerry
left the region after five days, and as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
briefed his Likud faction on the progress of the talks.
Kerry is expected
to return next week.
Netanyahu told the Likud MKs that there will be
elements inside the American declaration of principles that Israel will not
like, and there will be elements that the Palestinians will not
Government officials said that if this particular track toward
extending the negotiations beyond the late April deadline bears fruit, then both
Israel and the Palestinians are expected to say that the positions reflected in
the document are American positions – not necessarily ones they accept – but
that they will continue to negotiate based on the American
Among the issues expected to be difficult for Israel to swallow
is a declaration that the endgame is a Palestinian state based on the 1967
lines, with minor land swaps. And among the bitter pills for the Palestinians is
expected to be a formula recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish
people, and making clear that the Palestinian refugees are to be absorbed in the
future Palestinian state.
Netanyahu told the MKs he was using his
meetings with Kerry to persuade him that Israel must maintain settlement blocs
and areas of national and strategic importance, and that he was succeeding in
persuading Kerry to accept many of Israel’s positions.
“There is an
understanding about Israel’s need to keep settlement blocs and areas of
historical significance like Hebron and Beit El,” sources close to Netanyahu
quoted him as saying following the closed-door meeting.
received an impression from Netanyahu that he had no problem giving up
uninhabited land and was ready to give up settlements that are not in blocs or
nationally or strategically important.
Following questioning by MKs Tzipi
Hotovely and Moshe Feiglin, Netanyahu said he disagreed with them about
annexation in the West Bank.
“I know there are some of you who favor
annexing land together with the Palestinians, but I don’t want to control 1.5-2
million Palestinians and neither do most Israelis,” he said, according to
sources close to him who were in the meeting.
Netanyahu said that neither
a binational state nor a situation where the Palestinians do not have full
rights were acceptable.
He said a solution was needed, and that the
current negotiations were aimed at trying to find that
Regarding security, Netanyahu said that he and the Americans do
not want the West Bank to “look like Afghanistan.”
When Hotovely asked
Netanyahu about Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s support for swapping not
only territory but also populations, including the Wadi Ara area and the Little
Triangle, a collection of Arab villages next to the Green Line, the prime
minister replied, “That is the foreign minister’s opinion and has been for quite
Liberman raised this issue during a speech Sunday in the
Foreign Ministry. When asked whether this idea has been raised in talks with
Kerry, Netanyahu said he saw no benefit in discussing the issue. But a source
close to Liberman said it had been raised, and that Kerry was not ruling it out
as an option.
Netanyahu has not spoken out publicly about Liberman’s
ideas – neither rejecting nor endorsing them.
Liberman, during his speech
Sunday, also ruled out Israel’s acceptance of any Palestinian “refugees,” not
even a symbolic number, as former prime minister Ehud Olmert was willing to
Ma’ariv reported Monday that Kerry was pressing Netanyahu to show
some flexibility on this issue, to make it easier for Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish
A government official said Netanyahu has never indicated any
willingness to accept even a symbolic number of Palestinian
Abbas, meanwhile, was quoted Monday as saying Kerry still has
not presented him with a final draft of a framework agreement.
letter to Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, Abbas said that Kerry was
trying to reach a framework agreement of understandings and not an interim or
Abbas’s letter was relayed to Elaraby by Tayeb Abdel
Rahim, a senior aide to the PA president.
Abdel Rahim said that Abbas’s
letter surveyed the latest developments concerning Kerry’s ongoing mission in
The Palestinians, Abdel Rahim said, were pinning high hopes
on Kerry’s efforts to lead to the implementation of previous
Elaraby told the PA official that US Middle East envoy
Martin Indyk was expected to visit Cairo on Tuesday, to brief him on the latest
That visit follows meetings that Kerry himself held with
Jordanian and Saudi leaders on Sunday to brief them on the
“The Palestinian-Israeli track does not need a new
framework agreement of understandings,” Abdel Rahim said.
“There are old
and several understandings such as the Oslo Accords, the Road Map and the
Annapolis Conference. We want practical solutions and not additional
understandings over which we would have to negotiate for years,” he
The senior aide said the Palestinians remain committed to
negotiating with Israel until the end of the nine-month timetable set by Kerry,
which expires in April. “After that, we will go to the UN organizations [to seek
recognition of a Palestinian state] if there are no [Israeli]
Kerry, before leaving, met with opposition head Isaac
Herzog, who said afterward that Kerry seemed more determined than any previous
mediator to reach an agreement.
“I expressed my appreciation for the
important work he is doing,” Herzog said. “We are at a historic moment of
decision making. I don’t think we have any alternative other than to separate
from the Palestinians and establish two states.”
Herzog assured Kerry
that the Labor Party would support a diplomatic initiative that would move an
agreement forward and that, with opposition support, there was a majority in the
Knesset for such a deal.