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Kerry In New Mideast Peace Push

JERUSALEM – After attending a somber ceremony at Yad Vashem on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry began shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem in an effort to jumpstart the long stagnant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israeli media sources report that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided Kerry with a list of potential Israeli concessions, including the release of some Palestinian prisoners, the freeing of Palestinian Authority (PA) tax revenues and custom duties, and the ceding of a swath of Judea and Samaria under Israeli control (Area C) to the PA. In return, the PA must agree to restart direct negotiations with Israel.

Netanyahu reiterated his government’s policy of not freezing any settlement construction at this time as part of a resumption of negotiations. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that a complete settlement freeze must be implemented for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

During his trip Kerry will also meet with representatives of the Arab League, who are expected to insist that Israel agree to their Arab Peace Initiative that calls for a total Israeli withdrawal from areas captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. While Netanyahu has praised parts of the initiative, which includes the mandatory establishment by all Arab nations of full diplomatic relations with Israel upon the signing of a formal peace agreement, he has said that Israel will not return to the pre-1967 borders and that Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital.

Abbas has reportedly asked Kerry to have Netanyahu supply maps showing Israel’s proposed final borders. Netanyahu’s Palestinian interlocutor, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, supplied Abbas with detailed final borders during her stint as then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s foreign minister. Those maps, rejected by Abbas, purportedly included the return of at least 95 percent of Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu is refusing to show Abbas any border plans until he returns to the negotiating table and a plan is worked out regarding how Hamas should be dealt with.

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