With John Kerry's diplomatic efforts stalling and the Palestinians proving far more resistant to making concessions than the United States expected, President Barack H. Obama has decided to take a more “active role” in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the New York Times reports. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is set to meet Obama in Washington next Monday, will find himself under heavy pressure by Obama to accept a deal Kerry plans to present in the coming weeks.
Obama will make an “urgent appeal” to Netanyahu to accept Kerry's plan, the report said, quoting U.S. officals as saying that “now is a very timely opportunity” for Obama to push for Israeli acquiescence to the plan.
Meanwhile, reports said Thursday, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas called ideas that Kerry presented to him as “madness.” According to reports in PA newspapers, Kerry proposed lopping off Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and placing them under PA sovereignty, enabling the PA to declare Jerusalem its capital. He also raised the possibility that the Jordan Valley would remain under Israeli sovereignty. In addition, the PA would annex ten Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and be responsible for their security. Most other communities would remain under Israeli sovereignty, based on land swaps.
In response, the report said, a furious Abbas practically threw Kerry out of his office, telling the Secretary of State that if he did not back down on his ideas, Abbas would return to demanding that all descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 be repatriated in Israel, rolling back the “flexibility” he had promised to show on that demand. Abbas also reiterated that he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The New York Times also reported Thursday that Obama had invited Abbas to the White House. The PA chief will visit Washington sometime next week, after Netanyahu leaves.
Few details have been made public of Kerry’s proposed framework, though Thomas Friedman of the New York Times published some alleged details of the plan, which, he said, will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with "unprecedented" security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.
The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs, but Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro declared that the PA will be obligated to recognize Israel as a Jewish state under the framework agreement, a long-standing demand by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The PA has already formally refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, stating that "the Arab states will never recognize a Jewish state."
Nevertheless, a senior PLO official was quoted as saying last week that despite Abbas’s earlier refusal to recognize Israel, he was now prepared to do so.