Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby said on Saturday that there could be 'not one' Israeli soldier in the territory of a future Palestine. At a conference of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, al-Araby – alongside the Libyan foreign minister – was tasked with presenting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with the Arab stance on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The conference was convened at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to brief the Arab representatives on the negotiations. Abbas has claimed that Kerry's security plan is skewed in favor of Israel and secures prolonged Israeli military presence in the Jordan River Valley, while delaying the Palestinian demands to a later stage.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Palestinian news agency that Abbas told the foreign ministers the Palestinian Authority objects to any interim deal or partial proposal and stressed that any agreement filed within the agreed upon nine month period, ending on April 29, must be a final one.
Though in its resolution the Arab League did not echo Abbas' reservations word for word, it did offer support of the Palestinian cause by stating that it rejects "all the Israeli plans and policies aimed at changing the demographic and geographic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in Jerusalem."
A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz the Palestinian leadership does not seek a confrontation with Kerry, but that its key positions had to be made clear. He added that contrary to the reports, Kerry's security plan was presented as an idea only, and that the Palestinians went over it and presented their reservations. According to the official, meetings were held over the last few days between the sides to discuss the issue and that nothing is being dictated from above.
The Palestinians argue that throughout all the negotiations conducted with Israel in the 20 years since Oslo was signed, the Jordan Valley was discussed in the context of security arrangements. But in the talks that began some four months ago, Israel started addressing this separately from the security issue. “Israel is doing all it can to lengthen the negotiations by bringing more and more clauses to the table, to cause a delay and to make the talks so cumbersome and complicated that they won’t produce any practical results,” a source told Haaretz.
This dovetails with the prevailing opinion among the Palestinians in recent weeks, and particularly after Kerry’s most recent visit, that Kerry no longer qualifies as a neutral mediator. Sources described the meeting with him last week in Ramallah as being a very difficult one, a meeting that left the Palestinian side uncertain as to the future of the talks, despite Abbas’ declaration that he would stick with the negotiating process for the allocated nine months.
The Arab League also adopted Abbas' proposal to demand the United Nations establish an international and independent investigative committee into the death of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
During his visit in Cairo, Abbas will also meet with Egyptian top brass, including intelligence chiefs in charge of the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas.
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