The paper Secretary of State John Kerry is developing to form the basis for further Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is not solely composed of American ideas, but is drawn from what the Israelis and Palestinians presented, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said on Wednesday.
“As we continue our work at this stage to shape a framework proposal, it is very much drawn from ideas the parties have put on the table themselves,” he said in Tel Aviv at the annual international conference of the Institute for National Security Studies.
“Very little of it will be purely American authorship; there will certainly be a role for America to try and bridge some gaps, but much of what will emerge from that emerges from discussions between themselves.”
These comments stood in contrast to remarks Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made at the same conference a day earlier, saying that the document Kerry was working on reflected “American positions.”
“I would like to emphasize that they are not Israeli positions, but rather American ones,” he said. “Israel does not have to agree to anything the Americans present.”
Shapiro said that this framework, if it is going to be successful in giving more time to negotiate a full agreement, “is going to need to contain real decisions on all the core issues.” He indicated that the document will not just be a very rough outline of an endgame, and “is not going to leave as much to the imagination – although many details will need to be filled in – as [was] the case with the [Geneva interim agreement reached in November] with Iran.”
US special envoy Martin Indyk, who was scheduled to address the conference, canceled at the last minute, apparently because of the sensitive phase the process has now entered.
Speaking at a panel at the conference with Shapiro, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said that a Kerry “diplomatic technique,” backed by US President Barack Obama, was emerging.
“In diplomacy you talk of the art of the possible,” he said.
“What Kerry is trying to perfect is what I call the art of the interim deal.”
Referring to the interim Iranian negotiations as well as the Palestinian track, Ignatius said Kerry “starts on diplomatic issues he thinks are totally impossible” and then tries to get elements that the sides can agree to, put them together into a document, and have that form the basis for negotiations to a broader, comprehensive deal.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, meanwhile, wrote on Wednesday that the document Kerry will soon unveil will spell out what the US considers to be the core concessions each side will have to make to enable a deal.
“The ‘Kerry Plan,’” he wrote, “is expected to call for an end to the conflict and all claims, following a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (based on the 1967 lines), with unprecedented security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley. The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs, but Israel will compensate the Palestinians for them with Israeli territory. It will call for the Palestinians to have a capital in Arab east Jerusalem and for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel proper.”
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office would not address Friedman’s story, saying that they did not know who his sources were, and adding that there was no need to respond to the document until it was presented.
The sources emphasized, however, that the document would be an American document articulating American positions that are to form the basis for further negotiations.
Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser under former US president George W. Bush, said at the INSS conference that he saw linkage between the current Iranian and Palestinian negotiations, in that Netanyahu would probably be reluctant to conclude an Israeli- Palestinian negotiation until he knew how the Iranian nuclear negotiations will turn out.
“He would probably say that I am willing to take risks for peace in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations, but not until I know that an existential threat for Israel – in terms of Iran – has been eliminated,” Hadley said.
Hadley speculated that there was a good chance “the clock on the Iranian negotiations will slip, and I think that in some sense the clock in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will slip as well. If you get a framework agreement for negotiations, that still leaves a lot of time for negotiations before you get an agreement.”
In Washington on Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry had no plans to travel to Jerusalem or Ramallah next week.
He will make his next trip “when it’s useful for him to return to the region,” she told reporters as she reminded them that an Israeli delegation had been in Washington last week and that Palestinian officials had visited this week.
Given the discussions on the frameworks, the US wanted to see if it could “bridge the gap between both parties.”
No date had been set for the framework agreement to be made public, Psaki said.
“I do not have a prediction for a framework rollout for a framework that does not exist,” she said. Right now the US is “focused on bridging the gaps and making sure the proposals from both sides are incorporated,” Psaki said.
“These are tough issues, politically charged issues with decades of history and that is why we did not expect this to be an easy process,” she said.