Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State via Wikimedia
Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Kerry Share Dinner in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back in 2014 demanded that the Obama administration negotiate the framework document for a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority to include a clause permitting Jewish settlements to remain under Palestinian sovereignty in the future Palestinian state, according to the draft documents revealed by Haaretz Sunday, and collaboration from senior US and Israeli officials who were involved in the talks.

According to the report, the Americans inserted the clause into the document, but it was eventually removed under pressure from Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) and senior Likud officials.

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Apparently, most of the members of the Israeli negotiating team, headed by then Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, believed that leaving the settlers in a future Palestinian state was only hypothetical, both because they didn’t believe Jewish settlers would agree to remain in a Palestinian state, and the fact, were they to remain, it would create serious security problems.

But Netanyahu supported keeping the Jews in those few isolated settlements not to be included in Israel’s share of Judea and Samaria under Palestinian jurisdiction for three reasons: 1. If there’s an Arab minority with equal rights in Israel, there’s no reason why a Jewish minority should not have equal rights in a Palestinian state; 2. The PM believed that the leaving settlements in a future Palestinian state would solve some of the practical problems inherent in evacuating tens of thousands of them; 3. Netanyahu believed that integrating the principle of letting settlements remain intact under a future Palestinian state into the framework document drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry would help the PM overcome political opposition and prevent the collapse of his coalition.

A senior Obama Administration official told Ha’arets that the American negotiators agreed to Netanyahu’s demand in principle, contingent on the PA’s approval. The Israelis then stressed that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had already agreed to a similar idea in his talks with then Labor Minister Yossi Beilin in the mid-1990s. Back then Abbas agreed to allow the settlers to remain within the borders of a Palestinian state, on condition that the settlements become open communities where anyone can buy a house without religious or national discrimination.

However, according to a senior Israeli official, in the 2014 negotiations of the same clause, the PA added another condition, requiring the settlers to become Palestinian citizens.

In February 2014 Netanyahu surrendered to Bennett and to the pro-settler faction in Likud and asked Kerry to remove the entire item from the draft, realizing leaving the item in could cost him his coalition government.

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