After substantially lowering his expectations, US Secretary of State John Kerry was able to save his mission to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with only moments to spare before his sixth round of shuttle diplomacy crashed. Friday night, July 19, Kerry announced in Amman that “initial talks would resume in Washington very soon.”
In this exclusive report, debkafile discloses for the first time details of the formula for which Kerry obtained the consent of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and, after an unscheduled side trip Friday to Ramallah, of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as well.
According to the Kerry formula, the forthcoming negotiations would focus on attaining an interim peace accord – without determining final borders – for establishing a Palestinian state in broad areas of the West Bank from which Israeli would withdraw.
Those areas would be subject to trilateral US-Israeli-Palestinian consensus on security arrangements and require some Jewish settlements to be removed.
Initial negotiations will start next week in Washington behind closed doors. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the prime minister’s adviser Yakov Molcho will represent Israel and senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian side. A third US team will report to John Kerry.
It was also agreed, according to this exclusive debkafile report, that the negotiating process would last no less than nine months up until March 2014, during which Israel agreed to an undeclared partial standstill on construction in Judea and Samaria outside the settlement blocs – except for building to accommodate natural growth.
The freeze would not apply to the West Bank settlement blocs or Jerusalem.
The Palestinian leader dropped his stipulation for a total construction freeze. He also promised not to carry out his threat to push anti-Israeli measures through UN and other international institutions during the talks.
The US Secretary also persuaded Abbas Friday to waive his ultimatum for peace talks to be based on 1967 borders. Instead, President Barack Obama will send him a letter affirming US recognition that the object of the negotiations is to establish a Palestinian state as the national home of the Palestinian people whose borders will be based on 1967 lines.
Obama will send another letter to Netanyahu affirming that the negotiations must lead to the recognition of the state of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, whose future borders will be based on the 1967 lines while also accommodating Israel’s security needs and its realistic demographic circumstances.
The talks will proceed on two levels: The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams in Washington, who will defer to their principals, Binyamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and John Kerry. Those three will only meet for direct talks when the teams have tangible results in the bag.
Before leaving Amman, the US Secretary said cautiously: “The agreement is still in the process of being formalized."