US Secretary of State John Kerry wound up his fifth peace shuttle trip for reviving Israel-Palestinian peace talks at the end of a fruitless third conversation with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday, June 30. Abbas turned down Kerry’s blueprint for both sides to forego preconditions and return straightaway to the long-stalled peace talks. The Secretary left Ramallah empty-handed after the Palestinians reverted to their three-point ultimatum: Israel must first accept 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations, release Palestinians jailed more than 20 years and freeze West Bank and Jerusalem construction.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Israeli cabinet Sunday that he had offered to join the Palestinians to negotiate a final settlement without preconditions or further delay.
Kerry plans to return in a few weeks to resume his peace push.
Saturday night, debkafile reported Secretary Kerry believed he was close to a deal after both the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to drop prior conditions for their meeting.
Read that earlier report here:
Barring unforeseen glitches, US Secretary of State John Kerry is reported by debkafile’s exclusive sources Saturday night to be closer than ever before toward reviving the long-stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Since Thursday, June 27, he has been shuttling between Jerusalem and Amman, whittling down the gaps between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Saturday night, Kerry dared to start looking at a realistic prospect of them getting together in Amman and kicking off direct talks for a settlement of the longest Middle East dispute.
Behind a cloak of secrecy and “difficulties” used as red herrings, the US Secretary came up with a formula that has come close to acceptance. The gist is, as Netanyahu has demanded all along, that the two parties withdraw all preconditions, sit down together and reframe those preconditions as “demands” to be negotiated between them.
For instance, Netanyahu will no longer be required to pledge in advance an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries with minor adjustments – as Abbas has insisted until now, whereas the Palestinian leader will not have to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.
Both are close to accepting “the Kerry blueprint” whereby matters of principle will be thrashed out in the course of the direct talks and not predetermined beforehand.
The Palestinian leader’s demand for the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state went the same way as the Israeli demand to put security issues at the top of the agenda. Netanyahu argued there was no point in acceding to the Palestinian demand for maps showing how Israel envisaged the borders of the two states, when those borders were bound to be affected in negotiations on the core issues of Jerusalem and security.
Our sources report that if both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders finally endorse “the Kerry blueprint,” we shall soon witness a landmark summit in Amman, hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah, between Abbas, Netanyahu and Kerry, the matchmaker. This event will symbolize the restart of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under the America aegis.
Kerry plans to have the process accompanied by a US mechanism for clarifying – or rather, defusing – disputes as they arise, smoothing them over diplomatically or moving past them to keep the talks on course. It will be headed by a respectable American figure, or possibly even himself.
The prime minister has steadfastly refused to announce another settlement freeze on the grounds that Abbas broke off talks in the course of the first one two years ago. However, the Palestinian leader dropped this demand some weeks ago when he saw Netanyahu quietly putting construction on a back burner.
Kerry and Netanyahu agreed in principle to oil the wheels of dialogue with a hefty injection of economic assistance to the Palestinians in the region of $4 billion for improving Palestinian living conditions on the West Bank.
debkafile’s sources note cautiously that crises and upsets may still be ahead before the US Secretary can announce an early Amman summit and a breakthrough in his unrelenting drive to get the Israelis and Palestinians around the table. The Palestinian leader has made no move to withdraw his threat to turn to the UN in September, dissolve the Palestinian Authority and hand the keys to Ban Ki-moon, if the negotiations fail to satisfy the Palestinians or break down. This prospect may recede if the talks take off and go well.