Netanyahu’s concessions for talks go far beyond a building freeze
The package Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accepted for US-sponsored talks with the Palestinians contains more substantial concessions than merely a freeze on settlement construction and goes far beyond the deal put before the security cabinet Saturday night, Nov. 13, debkafile reports from Jerusalem and Washington. The deal unveiled in Jerusalem early Sunday is only stage one of a larger secret package to which only Netanyahu and his close adviser Yithzak Molho are privy – not even Defense Minister Ehud Barak or the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi.
This package has been in secret negotiation for several weeks in the Jordanian capital Amman – and possibly European venues – between American, Israeli, Palestinian, Saudi, Jordanian and Egyptian representatives. According to US and Saudi sources, Israel has made four major concessions that will go into force if and when peace is signed with the Palestinians.
Under the one-year deal concluded with the United States – as reported to the Security Cabinet Saturday night – Israel has accepted a second three-month moratorium on West Bank settlement construction including starts made after the expiry of the first 10-month freeze on Sept. 26. It will not apply to Jerusalem. No third moratorium will be requested.
In return, the United States agreed –
1. To request congressional approval for the sale of 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion in addition to the 20 already allocated.
2. To follow an Israel-Palestinian peace accord, if it is concluded, by signing a mutual defense treaty with Israel, negotiations for which to begin in the coming weeks.
3. To veto any anti-Israeli motions put forward at the UN Security Council or other international bodies on four subjects:
— Initiatives for imposing political solutions on Israel;
— Any unilateral Palestinian bid to establish an independent state;
— All acts aimed at undermining Israel's legitimacy;
— Any attempt to use the Security Council to deny Israel's right to self-defense.
While the prime minister presented this deal to the security cabinet ministers as a draft still under discussion, debkafile's sources report that it was finalized with Washington and the negotiations have raced beyond that point and gone a lot deeper into the substance of a peace accord with the Palestinians in the secret round table under the American aegis to which Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have been co-opted.
These negotiations, still in mid-course, were first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 469 Nov. 11, together with the issues on the table:
A. The presence of foreign, namely Jordanian, troops in the Jordan Valley in a deployment that would satisfy Israel's security requirements and provide a barrier against the smuggling of missiles, other munitions and fighters into the West Bank when it comes under independent Palestinian rule.
Since 1967, every Israeli government since the 1967 War has stipulated that any peace accord must leave this strip with Israel as its security border to the east. Netanyahu has accepted in principle that the Hashemite Kingdom, for the first time since the Jordanian Army withdrew from the West Bank 43 years ago, would regain a military presence on the both the West and East Banks of the River Jordan.
B. The Jordanian military's functions along the Jordan River and on West Bank soil would be governed by agreed rules of conduct. Those rules would extend to other parts of the West Bank where the deployment of foreign forces is under negotiation.
C. The Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley would remain in place and continue to develop – on the understanding that after several decades, 30-50 years, their disposal would be renegotiated with the possible option of passing the area to the Palestinian state. This item is still open to discussion.
D. Israeli Defense Forces positions remaining there for now would be gradually reduced in size and number.
E. The above provisions would go into effect only after an independent Palestinian state is established.
debkafile's Washington sources add that these secret talks have hit a sticking point: The United States and Israel propose that the final borders of a Palestinian state be based on the pre-1967 War boundaries with adjustments dictated by Israel's security requirements and the demographic changes that have taken place in the territory since then – the main settlement blocs will be part of Israel. The Palestinians stipulate that their state precisely follow the 1967 borders without changes.
It is important to note that the widespread reports of a crisis in US-Israel relations during Netanyahu's five-day American trip were unfounded.