JERUSALEM – Secretary of State John Kerry has, for now, postponed a scheduled trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as prospects for reviving the peace process between high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian officials appear to be fading due to new demands by PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the Israeli government opposes.
According to Israeli media sources, Abbas is seeking to construct a wide range of projects, highlighted by five different cities that would be built within Area C. That region is under Israeli Civil Administration control and constitutes 61 percent of Judea and Samaria. According to Yediot Aharanot, Abbas also plans to erect a tourism city called Moonlight along the shores of the Dead Sea, as well as two airports – one in East Jerusalem and another in the Jordan Valley. All of the proposed projects’ locales are currently under total Israeli sovereignty. Yediot also reported that foreign countries, including Germany, would bankroll some of the planned projects.
The Jerusalem Post said last week that Saeb Erekat, the PA’s lead negotiator, has for the second time in the last few years told both American and Israeli interlocutors that the Palestinians would demand that Israel return the Latrun Valley as part of any final peace deal. The Latrun Valley, which runs parallel to Israel’s main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (Route 1), comprises an integral part of the country’s coastal plain. Israel annexed the Latrun Valley after defeating the Jordanian Legion during the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli officials say that during previous discussions with the Palestinians, dating back to the Oslo Accords, both sides understood that the Latrun Valley would be part of Israel when final borders were demarcated.
In addition, Modiin News reported that PA officials had asked IDF Civil Administration head Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, who is responsible for control over Area C in Judea and Samaria, for permission to build a large Palestinian military base approximately 328 yards from Israel’s secondary Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway artery (Route 443). The PA asked that the base be built on a plateau in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur, which is situated alongside the Israeli town of Beit Horon and overlooks Modiin, Kiryat Sefer, Ben Gurion Airport and a portion of the coastal plain. From that plateau, a single Kassam or advanced Grad rocket fired by a terrorist could imperil both the civilian population in the aforementioned cities and flights in and out of the airport. While the Civil Administration has yet to respond to the PA request, IDF officials believe that Palestinian negotiators will repeatedly raise the issue if Kerry succeeds in getting both parties back to the negotiating table.
Last Tuesday several Jerusalem municipal officials said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a gesture to Kerry for his peace efforts, had temporarily frozen new construction projects slated for Jewish residents in East Jerusalem. Kerry has criticized Israel for authorizing projects that could undermine the flailing peace process.