The United States has developed a plan for security arrangements in the West Bank following the establishment of a Palestinian state. Retired U.S. Gen. John Allen, who developed the security concept, will present it during a meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to informed sources.
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Against the backdrop of tension between Israel and the United States over the Iranian nuclear issue, Netanyahu will try to focus the talks with Kerry on the nuclear issue and preparations for permanent agreement negotiations between Iran and the major powers. Kerry, who will land in Israel on Wednesday evening, will attempt to focus his visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah on the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Negotiating teams for the two sides are in fact continuing to meet twice a week, with the special American envoy, Martin Indyk, also in attendance. The talks are not making progress, however, and the sides are engaged primarily in mutual accusations over construction in West Bank settlements by Israel and incitement by the Palestinians.
Kerry, who is scheduled to have separate lengthy meetings Thursday with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will try to take advantage of his visit to the region to “shake up” the two leaders and demand that they return to serious negotiations and refrain from a blame game.
Kerry’s talks with Netanyahu and Abbas will focus this time on security issues. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians on behalf of the government, are also expected to participate.
In talks with Netanyahu before the start of the current negotiations last July, Kerry understood that the security issue would be critical for the Israeli prime minister. Without an understanding on the security issue, the Americans concluded, Netanyahu would not agree to move forward on other issues, such as the borders of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s stance on the security issue has only hardened, following the interim agreement between the major powers and Iran.
Gen. Allen's briefing on the proposed American security concept will represent the first United States contribution of its own ideas on the core issues involved in a final peace arrangement since the latest round of talks began.
Allen, who until half-a-year ago was commander of American forces in Afghanistan, was appointed special adviser to Kerry and to American Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in May. As part of his role, Allen is a special U.S. administration envoy to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians on security arrangements.
Since his appointment, Allen, with the assistance of a team of American military officers and security experts, has made efforts to develop a U.S. plan for security arrangements that would accompany the establishment of a Palestinian state. The American idea was to develop a proposal in consultation with the two sides, in an effort to balance Israel’s security needs and the Palestinian demand for maximum sovereignty over the territory of the future Palestinian state.
Allen has visited the region several times in recent months. Most of his meetings have been conducted with the Israeli side, but he has also met with senior Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah. Allen’s contact people in Israel have been Defense Minister Ya’alon, the head of the political-security division at the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, Maj. Gen Nimrod Sheffer, who heads the General Staff’s planning division and the head of strategic planning, Brig. Gen. Assaf Orion.
In the course of the discussions, the Israeli side presented Allen with its security requirements for a future final peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israel underlined the need to leave military forces along the length of the Jordan River for an extended period, as well as the need for an Israeli presence at the border crossing at the Jordan River, continued Israeli control of the air space over the West Bank, the stationing of Israeli early-warning stations at several strategic points in the West Bank and an extensive series of other security demands.
According to a knowledgeable source, Allen’s plan will include provisions that individually address the security needs that Israel has presented. Allen is expected to present American ideas for solutions that combine physical security arrangements in the territory of the West Bank with American security guarantees for Israel and proposed American military aid to the Israel Defense Forces.
The Americans hope that, if they come to an understanding with Netanyahu on the security issue, they can demand that the Israeli premier begin to present clear positions on the borders of the future Palestinian state. It’s not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, a knowledgeable source said, adding that the concept that Allen will present will be a basis for discussion and he will want to hear Israel’s reaction. “The security arrangements,” the source added,”are the key vis-a-vis Netanyahu that can open a lot of doors on other issues such as the borders of the Palestinian state. If an understanding is reached with Netanyahu on security arrangements, it would be significant,” the source said.
Allen, a four-star general who rose through the ranks in the Marines, left military service in April after 37 years. He left his last post as commander of American forces in Afghanistan under embarrassing circumstances in November 2012, after being suspected of conduct unbecoming of an officer, but was cleared of all suspicion in January 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to appoint him commander of American forces in Europe, but Allen declined due to his wife's health problems.