Israel-PA Negotiations Continue Amid Jordan Valley Controversy
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority continued in Jerusalem on Monday, amid a familiar pattern of Israeli and American silence and PA leaks.
Israeli sources refused to confirm the meetings, in line with an agreement by the involved parties - Israel, the US and the PA - to refrain from public comments on the talks until real progress had been made. However, a Palestinian Authority officials leaked news of the latest meeting between the sides to AFP.
But while Israeli officials have remain tight-lipped about the talks, PA officials have made several leaks to the press.
In the most recent leak, a PA official said that during the negotiations, Israel agreed to a wholesale deportation of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria and the transfer of their property to PA Arabs. However, the PA official who reported on that Israeli offer added that the PA side had rejected it as not going far enough.
In an earlier leak to the press, the PA's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told an Arabic radio station that the US has guaranteed the PA all of its key preconditions in advance of negotiations.
At the same time, PA officials have publicly stated that achieving peace with Israel was impossible, blaming the Jewish state and its “occupation” of Judea and Samaria for this.
"No Israeli presence in Jordan Valley"
During a flying visit on Sunday focused on the Syria conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Whilst Kerry took the opportunity during a press conference to voice the Obama administration's position vis-a-vis the ongoing Syrian crisis, he kept his remarks on the peace talks to a minimum.
"We are convinced that the best way to try to work through the difficult choices that have to be made is to do so privately," he said. "We will not discuss the substance of what we are working on."
Meanwhile, a week after meeting Kerry in London, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmuod Abbas rejected the notion of an Israeli military presence in the strategically-important Jordan Valley in the Judea-Samaria region under any final-status agreement.
"The security of the (future) Palestinian state's borders are the responsibility of Palestinian security forces first and foremost," he told reporters in the Judean city of Jericho.
Israel demands a long-term Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley in the event of the establishment of a "Palestinian state" in Judea and Samaria. Without such a presence, Israeli security experts fear that what remains of the State of Israel would be indefensible from a strategic point of view, given that parts of the center of the country would stand at just 8 miles wide, well within firing-range of the highlands of a PA-controlled Judea and Samaria.
On Monday, it was revealed that Israel's chief negotiator with the PA, Tzipi Livni, had already voiced her support for an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley to the PA's negotiating team - contradicting the position of the Prime Minister.
Abbas also called on the European Union to enforce guidelines it published in July that would ban its institutions from dealing financially with or funding any Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria from 2014. Abbas had been joined in his calls by a number of EU academics, who urged the EU's foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton not to soften the Union's boycott of Jewish communities.
Kerry, however, last week urged the EU to suspend the guidelines.
"I did ask the European community if they would consider a suspension," he said. "It's not asking them to change the policy, it's asking them to suspend or delay its implementation while these talks are taking place."