Kerry in Israel to present ‘bridging proposals’ for deadlocked talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday
Photo credit: AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Israel on Wednesday night on a trip to salvage American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that both sides say are faltering. According to a report on Army Radio, Kerry was to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “restrain” Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, who several weeks ago announced plans for the construction of some 20,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria.
Officials from both sides have said that the American sponsors of the talks may soon present a “bridging proposal” to bring the sides closer together.
Israel has accused Palestinian leaders of engaging in anti-Israel incitement and hampering talks by refusing to recognize the country as a Jewish state.
Palestinians have objected to continued settlement expansion on land they want as part of a future state.
Kerry was scheduled to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday to try to set right peace talks that he and many analysts say may be the last chance to achieve a “two-state solution” for the two peoples.
An Israeli newspaper report on Wednesday said that 2,000 hectares (about 5,000 acres) of West Bank land that is privately owned by Palestinians — but is in areas where Israel exercises military and civilian control — will be given to Palestinians in the next 90 days for agriculture and commerce.
The Maariv report said Israel had bowed to a U.S. request to hand over the land to show that it is prepared to allow Palestinian projects to be advanced in these areas. There was no official Israeli comment on the report.
Haaretz reported on Wednesday that Kerry was also to present a plan for West Bank security arrangements after the creation of a Palestinian state.
According to Army Radio, officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development have been stationed throughout the Jordan Valley researching how security checks are carried out, what technology is used to monitor travel between territories, and how border crossings are managed.
At a press conference with Netanyahu on Thursday, Kerry said that U.S. Gen. John. R. Allen had provided Netanyahu “with some thoughts about the security arrangements and we will continue talks tonight and tomorrow.”
Kerry added that he was “deeply committed” to Israel’s security and ability to defend itself and that “some progress” had been made in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Kerry also touched on Iran, saying that Israel’s security was the U.S.’s primary concern in the nuclear negotiations.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, a vocal opponent of signing a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority at present, derided reports that Kerry arrived in Israel with a possible security arrangement following the creation of a Palestinian state.
“You can’t leave the cat to watch over the milk,” said Danon. “After the awful Geneva accord [between Iran and world powers to curb the former’s nuclear program], Kerry is trying to dictate a separate dangerous agreement to us. We won’t compromise over our security, even it means saying ‘no’ to our best friend. Our position over state security will remain steadfast and unwavering.”