'Tell Obama: No, We Can't'
As US Secretary of State John Kerry was making his way to Jerusalem, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud / Yisrael Beytenu) said Thursday that Israel will not sign an interim agreement that will put Israeli lives in danger.
"Secretary Kerry is coming to Israel again. We cannot count how many times he came already. We welcome him to Israel but we should tell him very clearly – we will not sign an interim agreement that will put the lives of Israelis in danger.
"We saw what happened in Geneva. A bad accord was signed in Geneva. We will not sign another bad accord with the Palestinians,” he said, referring to the deal reached between western powers and Iran over the latter's nuclear program. That deal has been lambasted by Israeli leaders for being too lenient on the Iranian regime as it pursues a suspected nuclear weapons program.
Danon added that Israel "cannot compromise our security" for "another ceremony in the White House".
Referring to the timeline put forth by Kerry, according to which the conflict with the Palestinian Authority will be ended by May 2014, Danon said that this was unrealistic.
Danon said that he expects Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “to tell our allies very clearly – 'no, we cannot.' We cannot compromise our security and our assets only for another ceremony in the White House.”
"In another 2.5 years there will be another president in the White House, but we will still be here,” he added.
Speaking to army radio, Danon ruled out the possibility of any Israeli withdrawal from the strategically-important Jordan Valley.
"From the Israeli point of view, there will not be any Palestinian presence at the crossing points (with Jordan)," he said, adding that "An Israeli civilian and military presence in the Jordan Valley is essential."
Kerry arrived in Israel late on Wednesday in his latest attempt to drive forward the faltering peace talks which have almost reached the halfway point with very little visible progress.
US officials have said the focus this time would be on Israel's security arrangements, although they have refused to confirm media reports that Kerry was to present Netanyahu with a plan of how this could look in the context of a peace deal.
Israel has always insisted that in any final agreement, it would have to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, which runs down the western flank of Judea and Samaria, bordering Jordan.
According to a report in Maariv newspaper, when US General John Allen briefs Netanyahu during the morning meeting, he will outline a "bridging proposal" which will enable Israel to reduce, as much as possible, its military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Quoting senior diplomats, the paper said the plan would outline arrangements for a transitional period and a permanent status arrangement and may include "guarantees, advanced technological equipment and unique weaponry" which would enable Israel to either "reduce or to replace its military presence along the Jordan River".
A central part of the plan would address early warning stations and security over air space, particularly around Israel's main international airport near Tel Aviv.
But Danon ruled out any flexibility over security arrangements.
"Even if the Americans are our friends we will tell them: Sorry, we are not going to do everything you want, we are not going to give up (security) principles which are essential for us, even if it means the negotiations won't move forward and there won't be a nice ceremony at the White House," he said, echoing his comments to Arutz Sheva.
Netanyahu has said Israel would only accepted the emergence of a Palestinian state if it was demilitarised, with Israeli troops deployed along the Jordan Valley, and also completely ruled out any transfer of security control in the border area to a third party - an option which would be acceptable to the Palestinian Authority.
After talks with Netanyahu, Kerry will head to Ramallah to meet PA Chairman Mahmuod Abbas at 1200 GMT.