JERUSALEM – Fearing a protracted stalemate will prompt Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to publicly blame Israel for the failure of the peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask Secretary of State Kerry to extend the negotiating deadline of May 2014 by an additional year when Kerry returns to Jerusalem in January.
According to Israel Hayom, the Israeli negotiating team and Kerry have failed to convince the Palestinians to budge from their positions regarding Israeli security in the Jordan Valley; territorial concessions in and around major settlement blocs; Jerusalem; and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
The paper also reported that even after more than 20 intense negotiating sessions between Livni and PA interlocutor Saeb Erekat, as well as an additional dozen sessions between Kerry and the Palestinians, “both sides remain far apart.”
So far apart, in fact, that Netanyahu will reportedly ask Kerry to refrain from introducing any bridging agreements that could destroy the negotiating process altogether.
London’s Asharq Al-Awsat daily, which has ties to the Saudi royal family, reported that the Arab League and the PA, which originally rejected Kerry’s proposals because they were seen as favoring Israel, have now reversed their positions and will back the U.S. secretary of state’s ideas in order to keep the peace process moving forward.
Netanyahu had informed former U.S. Marine General (Ret.) John Allen, who heads Kerry’s security negotiating team, that the IDF would need to be deployed across the Jordan Valley for at least a decade as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians, but the PA and Arab League refuse to allow “even one Israeli soldier” on Palestinian territory after an accord is signed. They have, however, agreed to the presence of an international force in the Jordan Valley.
Israeli newspapers were reporting that Kerry might offer Netanyahu a “unique” security deal that would have American soldiers patrolling the valley while the IDF maintained a presence on adjacent roads. Netanyahu told Kerry in earlier meetings that previous Israeli prime ministers had rejected the introduction of either international or American forces in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria regions and that he would do the same.
According to Israel’s Channel 10, Kerry’s “bridging plan” would also focus on solving the delicate issue of Greater Jerusalem. Kerry’s concept has all of metro Jerusalem’s towns and villages divided between Israel and the PA with the “eastern side” of Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and the “western side” the capital of Israel. But the plan, according to Channel 10, does not contain a definitive solution on how to deal with the Old City and the Temple Mount.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu briefed the White House on the uptick of terror attacks emanating from PA – controlled areas and Gaza Strip during the past few weeks, including a failed bus bombing in Tel Aviv over the weekend and a Grad missile attack on Ashkelon on Monday. The failed bus bombing spurred a heightened terror alert in New York, as the NYPD beefed up security surveillance at key transportation hubs and major synagogues in the area.