Exclusive: US “framework” calls for 80,000 Israeli West Bank evacuations to the big settlement blocs
The State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington Tuesday, Dec. 31, that Secretary John Kerry would discuss with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a “proposed framework” to serve as “a guideline for addressing all core issues” in the decades-long dispute.
“Some people say this would be an interim agreement. No, that’s not the case,” she said. The core issues she listed were “borders between Israel and a future Palestine, security arrangements, the fate of Palestinian refugees and conflicting claims to the holy city of Jerusalem.”
Kerry leaves for Israel and Ramallah on New Year’s Day to continue his shuttle, after Monday night, Dec. 30, Israel released from jail 26 Palestinian terrorists serving life sentences for murder.
debkafile reported earlier that the US Secretary does not expect Israeli and Palestinian leaders to approve the proposed framework – only to contribute their comments. We also reported that Abbas had indicated to the Secretary that that Palestinians were preparing to reject his proposals by demanding their referral to the various pan-Arab forums.
DEBKA Weekly No. 616 of Dec. 20 was first to divulge the nine points of the unpublished draft Kerry planned to present to Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week. Since then, certain amendments were introduced – especially in relation to Israel’s military presence in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria. The document continues to be molded by Kerry’s ongoing back-and-forth communications with the two parties.
Nevertheless, the nine points disclosed hereunder stand as the basic guidelines of the proposed US framework:
Israel hands over 92.8 pc of West Bank to Palestinians
1. Nearly all its content draws on the proposal Ehud Olmert, then Prime Minister, submitted to Abbas on Aug. 31, 2008, which he never accepted; nor was it approved by any Israeli authority.
2. Territory: Israel will annex 6.8% of the West Bank including the four main settlement blocs of Gush Etzion with Efrata; Maale Adummim; Givat Zeev;and Ariel, as well as all of the “settlements” of East Jerusalem and Har Homa – in exchange for the equivalent of 5.5% of Israeli territory.
3. The Safe Passage: The territorial link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would cut through southern Israel and remain under Israeli sovereignty and Palestinian control.
Our sources add that out of all other options, the American sponsors of the accord prefer to build an express railway line from Gaza to Hebron, without stops, which would be paid for by Washington. Abbas has already informed John Kerry that he wants the train to go all the way to Ramallah.
There will be a special road connecting Bethlehem with Ramallah that bypasses East Jerusalem. This is mostly likely the same route currently planned to go around Maaleh Adummim.
Since the safe passage will cross through Israeli, accounting for 1% of its territory, this area will be deducted from the land Israel concedes, leaving 4.54% for the land swap with the Palestinians.
4. Jerusalem: East Jerusalem will be divided territorially along the lines of the Clinton Parameters with the exception of the “Holy Basin,” which comprises 0.04% of the West Bank.
Sovereignty over this ancient heart of Jerusalem, with its unique and historic concentration of Jewish, Christian and Muslim shrines, will pass to an international commission comprised of the US, Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
5. Refugees: This issue will be addressed according to guidelines proposed by President Bill Clinton at Camp David in the year 2000 – and rejected by Yasser Arafat.
An International Foundation will be established to resettle the bulk of the Palestinian refugees in Canada and Australia, except for a small portion to be accepted in Israel in the framework of family reunification.
6. Security: The Olmert package made no mention of security. However the Kerry draft deals extensively with this issue and Israel’s concerns. It calls for the evacuation of all 10,000 Jewish settlers from the Jordan Valley leaving behind a chain of posts along the Jordan River. Security corridors cutting through the West Bank will maintain their land and operational links with Israel.
Border crossings will be set up between Palestine and Jordan with an Israeli security presence. The security section of the draft assigns the use of West Bank and Gaza airspace by Israel and the Palestinians. There will be no Israeli military presence inside the Palestinian state.
7. Taxes: The present arrangement for Israel to collect customs levies and distribute the revenues to the Palestinians will continue. (debkafile: That is about the only clause which the Palestinians accept.) Israel will carry out security checks on goods bound for Palestinian that are unloaded at Haifa and Ashdod ports, and levy customs at rates fixed by the Palestinians to be disbursed in the Palestinian state.
8. Settlements: Eighty percent of all Jewish settlers on the West Bank will be confined to the major settlement blocs as defined in 2. The remaining 20% amounting, according to American calculations to 80,000 people, will have to decide on their own whether they prefer to stay where they are under Palestinian rule or move to Israel.
debkafile’s sources report that Secretary Kerry advised the Israeli Prime Minister bluntly that he need not promise to force settlers to leave their homes – as the Sharon government did when he executed the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Netanyahu replied that it was unacceptable for Israel to abandon the settlers to their fate. He therefore proposed that instead of forcing them to cross back into Israel, they would be absorbed in the larger settlement blocs remaining under Israeli sovereignty.
9. Timelines: Different timetables are proposed in the US framework for implementing different sections: The Palestinian leader says he is willing to give Israel three years as a transition period for relocating settlers.
When he submitted the paper to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders earlier this month, the Secretary of State told them that he saw no point in the two negotiating teams holding meetings consumed by interminable debates on one point or another. He therefore asked both parties to henceforth send him their comments in writing.