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Archive for the ‘Peace News.’ Category

Israeli Minister: Kerry Pressuring the Wrong Side.


An Israeli minister on Sunday said Washington’s top diplomat was “wrong” for pressuring Israel in peace talks, a day before Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas visits the White House.

His remarks came two days after US Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

“John Kerry is wrong because he is putting pressure on the wrong side,” said Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, who is considered close to Netanyahu.

“Kerry should be asking Abu Mazen (Abbas) why he is stubbornly refusing to recognise Israel as the Jewish state,” he told public radio.

The demand, which was only placed on the table several months ago by Netanyahu, has been consistently rejected by the Palestinians and is now threatening to derail the peace talks ahead of an April 29 deadline.

Kerry waded into the debate on Friday, saying he believed it was a “mistake” to raise the issue over and over again — in what was taken as open criticism of Netanyahu.

“I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace,” Kerry told a congressional hearing, adding that Washington had made its position “clear.”

He said such recognition was clear in UN resolutions and it was also confirmed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1988 and in 2004.

The Palestinians, who recognised Israel as a state in the early 1990s, have said that accepting its religious character would ignore its Arab minority and amount to giving up on the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.

Israel has not formally responded to Kerry’s remarks.

Kerry is facing an uphill battle to get the two sides, which have reportedly failed to agree on anything, to clinch a framework proposal which would extend the talks beyond the April deadline until the end of the year.

On Saturday, another senior member of Netanyahu’s cabinet poured cold water on Kerry’s peace efforts by saying Abbas was not a partner for peace.

“He is not a partner for a final agreement that would include the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and that would end the conflict and all claims,” Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told private Channel 2 television.

“I’m sorry to come to this conclusion, but this (peace agreement) will not happen in my time,” said Yaalon, one of several hardliners in Netanyahu’s government.

Abbas will meet US President Barack Obama on Monday, and is likely to raise the issue of Israel’s pledge to release another 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners, which is due to take place on March 29.

Israeli officials have said that without any movement in the peace talks, the release is unlikely to happen.

© AFP 2014

Source: Newsmax.com

Netanyahu Rouses Supporters as Obama Presses for Compromise.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will rally thousands of his country’s most passionate U.S. advocates today after President Barack Obama coaxed him at the White House to compromise with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu addresses the annual Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as a deadline looms on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s nine-month Middle East peace campaign. Kerry is pressing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu to accept by April 29 a structure that would guide further negotiations.

At yesterday’s meeting in the Oval Office, Netanyahu, 64, told Obama he will “stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state.”

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Obama, 52, who visited Netanyahu and Abbas on a Middle East tour a year ago, is inserting himself more directly into the peace talks as Kerry hits resistance from both sides. Abbas has been invited for his own White House meeting March 17. A week later, Obama is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, which has leverage over the Palestinians.

“It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said. “But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides.”

Netanyahu’s Response

Netanyahu responded that “Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not.”

Kerry, who attended the White House meeting, later spoke at the AIPAC conference, where he pledged U.S. military expertise and technology to protect Israel against any threats.

“We can deliver to Israel the security that Israel needs to make peace,” Kerry said.

If Kerry’s peace effort fails, it won’t be “the end of the world,” Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said yesterday in a speech at Tel Aviv University, broadcast on Israel Radio. Shaath said that talks could continue with Kerry’s framework agreement if Israel agrees to free more Palestinian prisoners and freeze building in settlements.

‘Seize the Moment’

Obama said in a Feb. 27 interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg that time is running out to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He urged Netanyahu to “seize the moment.”

If Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach,” Obama said. “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

For Israel, the more pressing concern is Iran’s nuclear program, which was the other topic dominating their discussion. The U.S. and five other world powers have a six-month agreement with Iran, to end in July, during which the Islamic Republic is supposed to freeze some of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some sanctions.

“Iran calls openly for Israel’s destruction, so I’m sure you’ll appreciate that Israel cannot permit such a state to have the ability to make atomic bombs to achieve that goal,” Netanyahu said to reporters at the White House during his appearance with Obama.

Israel has expressed skepticism about the negotiations, and warned against the U.S. getting played by the Iranians. Netanyahu may have limited ability to enlist the U.S. Congress in keeping pressure on Iran.

A senior Palestinian official said differences with Israel have widened in the latest round of peace talks.

Israeli Skepticism

“It isn’t narrowing,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, who negotiated on behalf of Abbas until November, said Feb. 27 at his office in Ramallah.

Obama’s decision to engage in the peace process a year after he delegated the work to Kerry suggests both that Kerry got further than the White House initially predicted in restarting peace talks and that the top U.S. diplomat has run into enough obstacles that his April deadline may be in trouble.

“This framework is more than a speed bump, it is a critical piece,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “Why not strategically deploy the president?”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has blocked efforts by some lawmakers to bring new sanctions legislation up for consideration, and Obama has said he would veto any such measure should it get through Congress.

Ahead of the policy conference at AIPAC, the biggest pro- Israel lobbying group, Senate Republicans on Feb. 26 announced a new effort to try to force votes on new sanctions legislation by attaching language to popular legislation for veterans’ benefits. While AIPAC earlier called for new sanctions, it has backed away from that position.

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© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Kerry Defends Peace Efforts as Israeli Criticism Gets Personal.


Image: Kerry Defends Peace Efforts as Israeli Criticism Gets Personal

Israeli officials’ jibes at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have intensified as he works on a blueprint for a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, forcing him to defend a mission already burdened by wide gaps.

“Unfortunately, there are some people in Israel, and in Palestine and in the Arab world, and around the world, who don’t support the peace process,” Kerry said yesterday in an interview on CNN. “I’ve been, quote, ‘attacked’ before by people using real bullets, not words. And I am not going to be intimidated.”

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Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon launched the opening salvo last month by describing him as “messianic” and “obsessed” with reaching a peace deal — remarks he later apologized for making. Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz fanned the flames this week by accusing Kerry of supporting Palestinian efforts to boycott Israel with remarks that were “offensive, unfair and intolerable.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to agree with Steinitz while not mentioning Kerry by name, telling his cabinet this week that “threats to boycott the state of Israel will not achieve their goal.”

Kerry had warned at a security conference in Munich on Feb. 1 that Israel could face growing economic sanctions if the peace talks failed. His remarks, he said, were “distorted” by his Israeli critics.

“I did not do anything except cite what other people are talking about as a problem, but I also have always opposed boycotts,” he later said.

Peace Vision

Kerry has been pushing to clinch a peace deal that has eluded Israelis and Palestinians for decades, and is preparing to present the sides with a vision of an accord that is to serve as a guideline for talks on a final agreement. Reports that the proposal includes handing over West Bank territory now populated by Jewish settlers have especially incensed Israelis opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Opponents include lawmaker Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home Party, who told Israel Radio that Kerry’s policies contained an “undertone” of anti- Semitism, before being asked by the Anti-Defamation League to retract the remark.

The official council representing Israel’s West Bank settlers has produced several videos parodying Kerry’s peace efforts. The latest, released this week, shows an actor portraying Kerry trying to persuade Israelis to give up control of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, located on territory claimed by the Palestinians, by promising to build a new one “closer to the beach.”

Precedents Set

Israeli criticism of the kind directed against Kerry is neither a first, nor the harshest, aimed at a U.S. secretary of state, said Mark Heller senior research fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“You had such language used against James Baker in the early 1990s, and even worse aimed at Henry Kissinger in the 1970s, when many Israelis attacked him as a Jewish traitor. But that was at street demonstrations; what’s new here is the level of criticism coming from ministers,” Heller said.

Baker, who prodded Israel into its first talks with Palestinian officials at the 1991 Madrid conference, was accused of anti-Semitism after he was reported using an expletive to express his frustration with Israel’s American-Jewish supporters. Kissinger drew street protests after the 1973 Mideast war as he pressed Israel to withdraw from Egyptian and Syrian territory it conquered.

Criticism Assailed

Kerry also has supporters in the cabinet who have criticized the attacks on him as damaging Israel’s alliance with its most important ally.

“Ministers and others are speaking in a way that upsets me as an Israeli,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading negotiations with the Palestinians, told Israel Radio this week. “There are people who don’t want to reach an agreement, they don’t care what Kerry will present.”

There are two likely reasons for the intensity of the Kerry criticism, Heller said.

“First, is that some ministers are saying these things intending to gain domestic political benefit,” he said. “Second, it may just be a sign of panic from opponents of the peace process that this time we might really be getting close to a deal.”

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© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Bolton: Syria Peace Talks ‘Doomed to Failure’.


The international peace talks in Switzerland to discuss a resolve in Syria’s civil war are “doomed to failure,” claimed former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton on Fox News on Wednesday.

The talks got off to a rocky start Wednesday, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry argued a solution for Syria’s civil war must include President Bashar al-Assad stepping down from power, according to CBS News. The talks are an attempt to address the three-year civil war in Syria between rebel forces and the regime of President Assad that has claimed as many as 130,000 lives.

Story continues below video.

“The notion that these powers were willing to talk about easing Assad out has never been accurate. And yet, that has formed the basis of the Obama administration’s policy,” he said.
Bolton said Russia needed Syria because it was the location of their “only naval base outside the territory of Russia.” He maintained part of the problem was that the Obama administration based their policy of the “illusion” the U.S. and Russia were in agreement on a solution for Syria.

“I think, in fact, you can make a case that the administration’s policy on Syria has been based on illusions for three straight years — the most important of which, right now, is the illusion that the United States and Russia shared a common interest in a peaceful transition of power away from the Assad regime.

“That has never been Russia’s position,” Bolton explained.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Wanda Carruthers

Kerry Seeks Palestinian Recognition of Israel as Jewish State.


Image: Kerry Seeks Palestinian Recognition of Israel as Jewish State

A Palestinian official says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked the Palestinian president in their weekend meetings to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.

The official says Mahmoud Abbas opposes the idea amid concerns it will hurt the right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, but that talks are continuing. He spoke anonymously because Kerry doesn’t want those involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to talk to journalists.

Kerry was meeting with the leaders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday, possibly to win Arab backing for any Palestinian concessions.

Kerry has been pushing for the outlines of peace deal. The apparent trade-off is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland, in exchange for Israel’s acceptance of its pre-1967 frontier as the baseline for border talks.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

 

Kerry’s MidEast Peace Plan Will Destroy Israel Piece By Piece.


Secretary of State, John Kerry is reportedly making offers, promises and guarantees in the Middle East. Media reports indicate that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly shot down a proposal by US Secretary of State John Kerry to maintain Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for ten years following the signing of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.” Kerry, is reportedly promising the Palestinians the Jordan valley, and “invisible” Israeli presence at the border crossings between the West Bank and Jordan. John Kerry offered and promised what? Does Kerry own the Jordan Valley?

In November, John Kerry visited Israel and pressured Israel, and encouraged the Arabs to commit violence on Israel asking, “I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?” Tantamount to encouraging Israel to negotiate with a gun to their head, Kerry said Israel’s “isolation” would be their own fault if a peace deal with the Palestinians falls through. Kerry further warned the Israelis that “the alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos,” and continued, “There will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel [that] has been taking place in an international basis.”

Given the Obama Administrations track record in the Middle East, Israel (and the Palestinians) would be better off without Kerry’s visits to the region. John Kerry should spend less time pressuring Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East. Kerry’s focus on the Middle East can be working to catch the people in Libya (around the corner from Israel), where the Ambassador was lynched. Since Kerry claims to have stopped Iran so skillfully, after that he can focus on Egypt which is in chaos after America chased out Mubarak who was previously a staunch American ally. Just around the corner, Kerry can visit Syria, where Assad, Syria’s dictator remains in power thanks to Putin’s protection. In Syria, over 100,000 people have been slaughtered in the last two years, including more than 5,000 children under the age of 16. There are hundreds of thousands dead already in the Middle East thanks to this administrations’ horrid foreign policies.

While America wrongly shows restraint with dictators, they must understand Israel lives in a very dangerous neighborhood and has life or death concerns when it comes to adapting these policies. The Obama Administration wrongly accuses and blames Israel rather than the terrorists who work to destroy Israel piece by piece, in false pursuit peace. They seek to destroy Israel piece by piece – from the “West Bank” to Jordan Valley to Eastern Jerusalem.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a Zionist visionary who is the spiritual father of the Likud Party (the ruling party of the state of Israel, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu) wrote many years ago of the need to stand up against people those who don’t have the best interests of the Jewish people at heart: “Instead of excessive apology and instead of turning our backs to the accusers — as there is nothing to apologize for, and nobody to apologize to — it is long overdue to respond to all current and future accusations, reproaches, suspicions, slanders and denunciations by simply folding our arms and loudly, clearly, coldly and calmly answer, ‘Go to Hell!’

“Who are we, to make excuses to them; who are they to interrogate us? What is the purpose of this mock trial over the entire people where the sentence is known in advance? Our habit of constantly and zealously answering to any rabble has already done us a lot of harm and will do much more. The situation that has been created as a result, tragically confirms a well known saying: ‘Qui s’excuse s’accuse’ (He who apologizes condemns himself).

“We think that our constant readiness to undergo a search without hesitation and to turn out our pockets will eventually convince mankind of our nobility; look what gentlemen we are — we do not have anything to hide! This is a terrible mistake. The real gentlemen are the people that will not allow anyone for any reason to search their apartments, their pockets or their souls. Only a person under surveillance is ready for a search at every moment. This is the only inevitable conclusion from our maniacal reaction to every reproach, to accept responsibility as a people for every action of a Jew, and to make excuses in front of everybody.

“I consider this system to be false at its very root. We are hated not because we are blamed for everything, but we are blamed for everything because we are not loved. We do not have to apologize for anything. We are a people as all other peoples; we do not have any intentions to be better than the rest. We do not have to account to anybody; we are not to sit for anybody’s examination and nobody is old enough to call on us to answer. We came before them. We are what we are, we are good for ourselves, we will not change and we do not want to. We are hated not because we are blamed for everything, but we are blamed for everything because we are not loved. We do not have to apologize for anything.”

As Esquire magazine noted some months ago about Kerry’s trips to Israel, “There is nothing he could be doing that would be a bigger waste of his time, including windsurfing.” Leave Israel alone. As Benjamin Netanyahu said: ‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”

Ronn Torossian is a New York based Public Relations executive and author.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Ronn Torossian

Kerry Returns to Middle East Next Week for Peace Talks.


Secretary of State John Kerry will return to the Middle East next week to continue prodding Israel and Palestinians to forge a long-elusive peace deal.

The State Department said Kerry is to leave on New Year’s Day for Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will discuss ongoing negotiations with leaders from both sides.

The parties relaunched direct talks over the summer with the goal of forging an accord within nine months.

The target date expires at the end of April, and there has been little if any tangible sign of progress so far.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Israelis Split Over Threat Posed by Calls For Jewish State Boycott.


JERUSALEM — Could Israel face a mounting global boycott of the type that ended apartheid in South Africa if it fails to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians by this spring?

Some liberal Israeli commentators have been sounding such warnings, and the outgoing European Union (EU) envoy to the Middle East said Thursday that support in Europe for sanctioning Israel over its settlement policies could gain steam if talks collapse.

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Israeli officials have been downplaying any potential repercussions, and this week the European Union dangled unprecedented incentives before Israelis and Palestinians to nudge them toward a deal.

But Palestinian grassroots activists and their foreign supporters say an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions — or BDS — against Israel is gaining momentum.

They point to recent successes, such as a decision this week by the American Studies Association, a group representing more than 3,800 U.S. scholars, to boycott Israeli academic institutions, though not individual Israeli colleagues.

Some activists say the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela earlier this month also invited comparisons between international anti-apartheid boycotts two decades ago and similar efforts now to pressure Israel to end its occupation of lands the Palestinians want for their state.

The BDS successes have been largely symbolic, and their impact on Israel’s robust economy has so far been negligible.

Israeli government officials have either dismissed the BDS campaign as ineffective or portrayed it as an attempt with strong anti-Semitic overtones to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, denounced the boycott decision of the U.S. scholars as a “travesty,” saying this week that “singling out of the Jewish state for boycott is no different than the many attempts throughout history to single out Jews and hold them to a different standard.”

While talk of boycott has unleashed strong emotions in Israel, government officials have been watching Europe’s more strident stance on Israeli settlements with greater concern.

Some 550,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians want a state in those lands and say Israel’s settlement building which only accelerated during the negotiations is jeopardizing the talks and pre-empting their outcome.

The EU has reiterated in recent months that it considers all settlements illegal and has taken steps to bring its actions more in line with its stated positions.

Europe has imposed a funding ban on Israeli research projects in the occupied territories that goes into effect next month.

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Earlier this week, EU diplomats warned Israel against new settlement announcements, saying that if negotiations collapse as a result, Israel would be held accountable.

The U.S.-led negotiations resumed in late July, after a five-year diplomatic impasse, and are to last for at least nine months.

On Wednesday, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, for the first time raised the possibility of an extension. He said that if the two sides reach a framework agreement on all main issues by the end of April, the Palestinians would be prepared negotiate for up to a year to work out the details of a comprehensive deal.

Previously, the Palestinians had said they reserve the right to walk away from the negotiations after nine months and explore other options, such as seeking wider international recognition.

The outgoing EU envoy to the Middle East, Andreas Reinicke, said in a phone interview from Brussels on Thursday that he believes a deal is possible and that the two sides “are starting to bridge the first gaps.”

Before the resumption of talks, the EU was discussing possible EU-wide recommendations on labeling Israeli settlement products, he said. Labeling could enable consumers to decide if they want to boycott such goods.

Reinicke said that when he started in his post in February 2012, only two of 28 EU member states supported the idea of labeling. Now, 14 states are in favor, he said. “There is movement in this direction,” he added.

“I think there is a general understanding among all 28 states that settlements are illegal under international law as long as there is no agreement on the border” between Israel and a state of Palestine, he said.

The discussions on labeling have been put on hold for now because Europe is working closely with Secretary of State John Kerry to support the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, said Reinicke, who leaves his post at the end of December.

Hoping to prod the sides, EU diplomats promised earlier this week that Israel and a future Palestine would win unprecedented access to the EU in new partnership agreements if they strike a peace deal.

In Israel, the aftermath of Mandela’s death and the recent BDS successes have sparked a domestic “boycott debate.”

Shmuel Inbar, a Middle East analyst, said Israel isn’t facing a serious threat.

“I don’t think that five months from now, the key issue on the international agenda is to start to go on a crusade for boycotting Israel,” he said. He said Europeans will realize “that they have much bigger problems to attend to.”

However, several liberal commentators said Israel must heed the warning signs.

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“For various reasons, the Western governments have turned a blind eye to the Israeli violation of human rights” in the occupied territories up to now, Aviad Kleinberg, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily this week. “They usually make do with feeble condemnations and voicing pious concern for the future of ‘the conflict’.

“It appears as though this policy of turning a blind eye is going to end,” he wrote.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Kerry: Israeli-Palestinian Deal Possible by End of April.


TEL AVIV, Israel — Shrugging off gloomy predictions of failure, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that Israelis and Palestinians remained committed to peace talks and were on course to wrap up a full deal by April.

Speaking at the end of his second visit to the region in just a week, Kerry said the two sides were discussing a framework for a final-status accord to resolve the core issues at the heart of the decades-old conflict.

“Both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for that,” Kerry told reporters after separate talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

“We’re not talking at this point about any shifts [in the schedule],” he said, dismissing bleak assessments from both sides on progress in the U.S.-brokered negotiations, which resumed in July after a three-year pause.

The U.S. top diplomat wants the two camps to accept a so-called framework accord that will touch on all the main issues, such as security, the future of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees, and serve as a broad outline for the final deal.

Palestinians fear such a preliminary agreement could serve to delay once again their hopes of establishing an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — land the Israelis seized in the 1967 war.

Kerry said his talks over the past two days, played out against a backdrop of fierce winter snow storms, had focused on security, with retired U.S. General John Allen joining him for the discussions with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

GUARANTEES

Palestinian sources said Allen, a former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, had drawn up plans to allow a continued Israeli military presence for the next 10 years in the Jordan Valley — along the eastern border of any new Palestinian state.

Israel says its troops have to remain there to prevent arms and militants from entering the West Bank and launching attacks. Abbas has rejected the idea, but said he would accept seeing U.S. troops deployed along the border.

“We are working on an approach that both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty,” Kerry said, without giving further details.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said after Kerry’s visit “we want to achieve a peace based on Israel’s withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967.”

“We won’t accept limiting Palestinian sovereignty over our land,” Erekat added, in comments to al Arabiya television.

Palestinians also question whether Israel will press ahead with the third tranche of a planned release of Palestinian prisoners.

Seen as a vital confidence-building measure, Israel has so far freed about half the 104 prisoners it had pledged to let out of its jails under a deal secured by Washington in July. Kerry said the third tranche would go ahead on Dec. 29.

Kerry has made nine visits to the region since taking office in February in a relentless campaign to gain momentum and bridge a vast gulf of mutual mistrust.

“We remain hopeful that we can achieve that final-status agreement. Why? Because we are absolutely confident . . . that for both sides, and the region at large, peace can bring enormous benefits,” Kerry said.

He left Israel later on Friday, bound for Vietnam and the Philippines.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Kerry Meets Israel’s Netanyahu Again to Push Peace Talks.


Image: Kerry Meets Israel's Netanyahu Again to Push Peace Talks

JERUSALEM — Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday in his latest push for an elusive Mideast peace deal.

On his ninth trip of the year to the region, Kerry continued his furious pace of shuttle diplomacy amid a rare snowstorm that blanketed Jerusalem.

“I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I’ve ever seen anything go . . . giving me a New England snowstorm,” said the former Massachusetts senator as he viewed a snow-covered Old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu.

Kerry met Thursday in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and it took him more than two hours to get back to Jerusalem because of the wintry conditions, a trip that usually takes about 20 minutes. He departs later Friday for Vietnam.

Concerned that a final status agreement may not be possible by the May target date the two sides accepted when they resumed talks in August, U.S. officials say Kerry is hoping for a framework accord that would contain the principles of a comprehensive pact, but not specific details.

If an outline were achieved, the negotiations could be extended beyond the nine-month timeline originally set by Kerry.

The officials, who spoke to reporters aboard Kerry’s plane on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly, stressed that an agreement on all issues — including security, borders of a future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees — by May remains the goal.

But, should that prove unworkable, they said a framework agreement would buy time for additional negotiations. Netanyahu and Abbas agreed after numerous rounds of meetings with Kerry to negotiate for a minimum of nine months.

A framework accord, the officials said, would be a “logical step” on the path to a final status agreement.

In Ramallah and Jerusalem, he will also follow up on elements of a West Bank security plan, ideas for which he unveiled on his most recent visit to the region just last week, and other points of potential progress.

But his latest visit comes amid Palestinian unhappiness with the security plan and few, if any, tangible signs of progress.

Kerry, along with special U.S. Mideast peace envoy Martin Indyk, met separately and then together for about three hours Monday with chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat, Psaki said.

Livni and Erekat were in Washington for a Mideast conference in which President Barack Obama, Netanyahu and Kerry participated. Kerry also spoke Wednesday by phone with Netanyahu.

On Monday, though, top Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo said if Kerry finalized a framework accord, he would be breaking a promise to try to negotiate a final agreement in the current round of talks.

The Palestinians are concerned that a framework deal will accommodate very specific Israeli security demands while offering only vague promises to the Palestinians, Abed Rabbo said.

Security arrangements between Israel and a future Palestine would be central to such a framework. Kerry has argued that progress in negotiations is only possible if Israeli security concerns are addressed first.

The security proposals presented last week to Abbas and Netanyahu include arrangements for the border between Jordan and a state of Palestine.

U.S. officials have refused to discuss details, but Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details of the negotiations, say they would give Israel final say at that border for at least 10 years and would also have a military presence in the strip of land next to it, the West Bank’s Jordan Valley.

Israeli officials have said they fear militants and weapons could be smuggled into a future Palestine if Israel gives up control over the West Bank-Jordan border. Abbas has said he is willing to accept an international presence there, but not Israeli forces.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967, but are willing to accept minor land swaps in drawing the final border to accommodate some of the settlements Israel has built on war-won land.

Netanyahu has refused to commit to what the Palestinians and most of the international community considers a basic ground rule — that border negotiations use the 1967 lines as a starting point.

In all, Israel has agreed to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four stages during the current negotiations, which began in late July and are to conclude in April. Israel has so far released two groups of prisoners.

Kerry wants the last two releases to be combined and be carried out in late January, instead of being done in two installments, the Palestinian officials said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

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