Netanyahu plans a national referendum on US peace framework to extend negotiations for another year

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is planning to conjduct the first popular referendum in Israel’s history to ratify the amended peace framework proposal which US Secretary of State John Kerry is drafting for presentation in the coming weeks, debkafile reveals.

The prime minister has been quoted as saying that he needs the referendum to push back “domestic pressures from the right”, but in any case he believes it will be politically advantageous. He has confided to his closest circle that for the first time that he is in favor of the Kerry proposals and, although they don’t see eye to eye on many of the issues, he thinks the gaps between them can be bridged.
Netanyahu is counting on the the framework accord gaining an overwhelming popular majority in referendum. Although it is not yet a final-status agreement, the document will lay out principles for solutions of the core issues at dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
After Netanyahu and Abu Mazen affirm this paper, it will be possible to extend the negotiating time frame for a final accord by at least another year and so get past the original nine-month deadline which expires at the end of April.

Our sources add that the prime minister regards the Obama administration’s acceptance of Israel as the Jewish national state to be an historic achievement of unparalleled importance. He believes he can find common ground with Secretary Kerry on Jerusalem as well. He was encouraged to learn that Kerry is working on a formula that avoids citing E. Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, only as a goal for their national aspirations.

Intense exchanges are gong back and forth on the security arrangements for the Jordan Valley which runs along Israel’s eastern border, and the number and area of the Jewish settlements remaining under Israeli sovereignty.  

A number of settlements outside the main blocs are due for removal, despite reports to the contrary, but the argument among the Americans, Israelis and Palestinians is over a timetable for their staged evacuation which is counted in years.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro precisely defined the current state of the negotiating process when he said in an interview to Kol Israel Radio Tuesday, Jan. 7, that the proposed US framework in which new elements have been introduced is not designed to generate an interim accord but “a final agreement on all the issues at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.”

Further exclusive details on the new elements and their import will appear in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to sign on.

Netanyahu does not expect the right-of-center Jewish Home to actually quit the government coalition over the US initiative, even though its leader, the Economy Minister Naftali Bennet, declared Tuesday that his party would not stay in a government that withdraws to the pre-1967 borders or repartitions Jerusalem.

Circles close to the prime minister said that he hopes Kerry won’t have a sudden change of heart and go back on his plans and their points of agreement, because then the huge effort invested in the current peace process will turn to dust. 

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