It is unfortunate that the six principles US Secretary of State John Kerry laid out for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations received much less attention in his speech 10 days ago than his strident criticism of the settlements, a senior US official said on Thursday.
The official said the US did not feel a solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict could be imposed from the outside, and that Washington continued to believe this could only be reached through direct negotiations between the sides.
Senior White House official Ben Rhodes has said in recent days that the US had no intention of either supporting or abstaining on another UN Security Council resolution on the Middle East. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday there were “strong signals” that decisions that would be made at a French Mideast conference on January 15 in Paris might be incorporated into a decision to be brought for endorsement by either the Security Council or the Mideast Quartet.
Washington has not yet announced whether Kerry will attend the Paris conference.
Netanyahu immediately slammed Kerry’s December 28 speech, saying it was “almost as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution passed at the UN” on December 23. He ignored Kerry’s six principles in his response, saying that the secretary of state had spent “most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace by passionately condemning a policy of enabling Jews to live in their historic homeland and in their eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Kerry’s six principles, the senior American official said, were offered in the spirit of efforts to restart negotiations – not to impose a solution – and there was much in the principles that Israel could perceive as “gains and wins.”
Among them, he said, was the clear statement of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as well as endorsing the principle that the Palestinian refugee issue could only be solved within the parameters of two-states for two peoples, and must not be allowed to endanger Israel’s demography as a Jewish state.
He said that these principles might be helpful down the road in shaping negotiations, when there is a better atmosphere and improved trust between the two sides.
Kerry’s principles were: Secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, negotiated based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps; two states for two peoples; a “just, agreed, fair and realistic resolution” to the Palestinian refugee issue that “cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel”; Jerusalem as the capital of two states; satisfying Israel’s security needs and bringing “a full end to the occupation”; and ending the conflict and all outstanding claims.
The senior official said that with all the talk about sharp disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem, “I think the [historical] record will accurately reflect the strengthening of the partnership” over the past eight years, something he said redounded to the credit of US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu, who made decisions that strengthened the relationship.
“With the passage of time and some distance, it will be clear that this was the case,” he said.
The official pointed to the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow missile defense systems, as well as the Israeli purchase of F-35 fighter-bombers and a constant flow of cooperation on intelligence and security issues between our “senior military officers,” as examples of the strength of the relationship.
Furthermore, he said the economic partnership between the two countries had blossomed, with trade going from some $35 billion a year soon after Obama took over as president to some $50b. today.