Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has informed the White House in Washington and US Secretary of State John Kerry of his acceptance in principle of the US framework document - subject to the reservations he has raised with US Special Envoy Martin Indyk, debkafile’s exclusive Washington sources report.
This step was followed by news that the prime minister would call on President Barack Obama in the first week of March during his next visit to Washington.
It was also the background to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s defense of the US Secretary in an interview published in TIME Magazine Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Kerry’s comment about boycott and international isolation hanging over Israel if his peace mission failed was denounced in Jerusalem as attempted intimidation. However, Dermer let him off the hook by saying: “I think he was making a descriptive statement. I don’t think he was doing it in order to pressure Israel.”
By overstating the ambassador’s role as “Bibi’s brain,” TIME was hinting that Dermer’s comment represented the prime minister’s current thinking on the incident.
In the exchanges leading up to the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, the prime minister’s office and Israel embassy have asked the White House and State Department to delay publication of the Kerry document to mid-April during the Knesset’s Passover recess. This will help Netanyahu to stay clear of the rowdy debates and heated special sessions he expects to erupt over his acceptance of the paper.
The Secretary of State may therefore add a few weeks to the three-way negotiating time table and release his framework accord at the end of April or early May.
A high-ranking US official told debkafile: “We all know that the die is cast in Jerusalem and that Netanyahu has accepted Kerry’s guidelines. They are now working on the reservations he needs to submit for his government coalition to survive the expected storm of protest and resistance and for the talks with the Palestinians to carry on.
Netanyahu will also try presenting the Kerry paper to the public as an American proposal which is not binding either on Israel or the Palestinians, except for the attached reservations.
US officials au fait with such processes predict that those reservations will eventually find their way to the dustbin. In 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appended 16 reservations to President George W. Bush’s letter defining the American position on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
In that letter, Bush omitted recognition of the “right of return” for the 1948 Palestinian refugees, and tangentially acknowledged Israel’s right to establish large settlement blocs in the West Bank in consideration of demographic changes.
The Bush letter did not refer to the 1967 borders, but instead determined that future negotiations should be based on the 1949 Armistice Lines.
Sharon’s reservations had dropped by the wayside by the time Congress came to approve the Bush letter in its original form.
Informed sources in Washington forecast a similar fate for the Kerry framework document.
For now, the US Secretary has made his own request of Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas: He asks them to draw out the negotiations on his framework after its release over two years – that is up until late 2016 when the Obama administration ends. Abbas is against any prolongation of the process. He has so far agreed to an extension of no more than a year.