Report: Kerry plan to include prisoner release, settlement freeze

US secretary of state aims to relaunch talks to last 6-9 months.

July 6, 2013 09:49
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres, US Secretary of State John Kerry and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Peres Abbas and Kerry at WEC 521. (photo credit: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell)

US Secretary of State John Kerry's much-anticipated peace plan is to include a freeze on all settlement activity outside of the major blocs and the release of prisoners detained prior to the Oslo-agreement in 1993, London-based Al-Hayat reported on Saturday.

Quoting an unnamed Palestinian official, Al-Hayat reported that the plan is based on the re-launch of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and includes three phases that will happen from between six to nine months.

Kerry's plan will reportedly include an economic initiative intended to establish joint projects in the region and develop the Palestinian territories. The report cites part of the incentive for the Palestinians to return to talks as the $4 billion economic plan led by former British prime minister Tony Blair, who Kerry met with in his last visit to the region.

The plan involves investments from large private-sector firms that will boost jobs and spur economic growth in agriculture, construction and tourism.

According to the anonymous source, the plan will go ahead in light of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders. The speech also included acknowledgement of a land exchange taking into account the realities on the ground - in other words, major settlement blocs - and the recognition of the Jewish state.

Last week, Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour reported that the secretary of state was expected to announce a four-way summit in Amman compromising of Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and American negotiators.

According to Ad-Dustour, Kerry planned to announce the summit at the press conference in Jordan, which was postponed.

The report stated that the summit was expected to be a starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Verifying the report, an Israeli official involved in the talks said Kerry's visit could yield an announcement that Israeli and Palestinian delegates would meet under US and Jordanian auspices.

"There is such a possibility, but it is not certain," the official told Reuters. A US official declined to comment.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over Israel's settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories that Palestinians want within a future independent state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that building in the settlements, viewed as illegal by most world powers, be halted before talks resume. He also wants Israel to recognize the boundary of the West Bank as the basis for the future Palestine's border.

Israel, for its part, wants to keep settlement blocs under any future peace accord and has rejected Abbas's demands as preconditions. But it has also quietly slowed down housing starts in settlements. Netanyahu is concerned that the Palestinians, in the absence of direct peace talks, could use the UN session as a springboard for further statehood moves circumventing Israel.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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