(I cannot verify the accuracy of this report…..Ed.)
US Secretary of State John Kerry returns Sunday night, Jan. 5 for another shuttle between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas after taking time-out for dropping in on Amman and Riyadh. DEBKAfile reports that Kerry has ordered his team to shelve the proposed framework accord he presented to Netanyahu in 12 hours of talks and eight with Abbas Friday and Saturday. He concluded that the gaps between them on the core issues of the dispute were getting wider instead of narrower.
The Palestinians reject any Israeli security presence on the West Bank. However, in Amman, Secretary Kerry found Jordan’s King Abdullah just as adamantly opposed to any Palestinian security presence on their common border along the Jordan Valley, or their participation in future security arrangements for the West Bank.
The monarch told Kerry in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t trust Palestinian security and intelligence organs. According to our sources, the Jordanian ruler said he found totally unacceptable the Palestinian plan for defending their future borders, which Palestinian intelligence chief Gen. Nidal Abu Dohan presented last week in Amman.
The Secretary proceeded from Jordan to Saudi Arabia later Sunday in search of some lead for energizing his Middle East peace effort. According to our sources, he planned to ask Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for a public gesture, such as a joint economic enterprise, for luring Netanyahu into accepting a greater measure of his proposed framework. However, it is doubtful whether he found the 92-year old monarch and his advisers in any mood for attending to Israel and the Palestinians, after the Obama administration had offered Iraq’s Shiite prime minister advanced weapons for fighting – not just Al Qaeda but also the Sunni Arab tribes of western Iraq.
John Kerry Sunday night faced five major difficulties:
1. The Palestinians insist on Jerusalem being registered in any agreement as the capital of their future state. The Prime Minister is flat against this.
2. Mahmoud Abbas is totally opposed to recognizing Israel as the Jewish State. His last conversation with the Secretary in Ramallah Saturday morning is described as “very tough.” Kerry informed him that Netanyahu’s demand for Israel’s recognition as the Jewish state had been adopted as official American policy. When he heard this, the Palestinian leader dug his heels in still deeper against relenting on this point.
3. Abbas turned aside the critical refugee question by telling the US secretary that the decision was not up to him and would in any case not be binding on a single Palestinian refugee.
4. The clause in the US framework relating to the Jordan Valley border is opposed by Israel, the Palestinians and the Jordanians.
5. Neither has agreement been reached on the sum total of land the Palestinians will receive or Israel will cede.
The Palestinian leader accused Israel of establishing a new settlement bloc stretching from northern Jerusalem to Binyamin and forming a barrier between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
The prime minister for his part asked Kerry to stop interfering in Israeli domestic politics by organizing a faction opposed to government strategy in the negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu said: “I am holding negotiations with you and the Palestinians, not with Israelis.”
The US Secretary promised that contacts with Israeli politicians would be handled solely by the US embassy and Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Other channels would be discontinued.