U.S. Security Proposal Includes Israeli Military Presence in Jordan Valley

Plan says Israeli presence will be reduced gradually after the establishment of a Palestinian state, in accordance with the security situation.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The American proposal for security arrangements under a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians includes an Israeli military presence deployed along the Jordan River for several years after the establishment of a Palestinian state, senior Israeli officials, who were exposed to the proposal, said.

The plan was presented to Israel and the Palestinians by visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week.

According to the American plan, the presence of Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley will be reduced in accordance with the security situation. "The time period in which an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River will remain is long," a senior Israeli official told Haaretz. "More than three to four years."

A senior Israeli official said the Americans adopted the Israeli position that an agreement concerning security arrangements be a condition to going forward with the negotiations. Furthermore, Kerry said on Friday before leaving Israel that finding a solution to the issue of security is central to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before he can move ahead with other aspects of the talks with the Palestinians.

"If Israel's security can't increase as a result of an agreement, it's very difficult to make an agreement. Obviously, security is paramount in the minds of the prime minister and his team with respect to their ability to move forward on other issues," Kerry said.

160 American security specialists and diplomats worked on the drafting of the proposal, headed by General John Allen, who commanded the American forces in Afghanistan. "We believe that we can contribute ideas that could help both Israelis and Palestinians get to an agreement," Kerry said Friday.

Details on the American proposal were also revealed on Channel 2 and in Maariv on Friday.

The American proposal stipulates that the Palestinian state will be demilitarized of heavy weaponry, but will hold a strong security force for internal security and fighting terrorism. The Americans offered to monitor the demilitarization of the Palestinian state with drones, similar to the monitoring flights conducted by the Americans over the Golan Heights as part of the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire agreement.

According to the proposal the border crossings into Jordan will be under joint Israeli-Palestinian control, possibly with an American presence.

With that being said, the American proposal does require that Israeli forces evacuate most of the West Bank except for the Jordan Valley and doesn't allow the Israel Defense Forces to work freely in Palestinian territories to search for suspects and thwart terrorists attacks.

The proposal also included an American willingness to invest billions of dollars in improving Israel's offensive and defensive intelligence capabilities to make up for the absence of Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Kerry met twice on Thursday with Netanyahu and the two met once again on Friday morning. All told, Kerry and Netanyahu met together for over 12 hours.

On Thursday, Kerry also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for more than four hours. Kerry is expected to return to the region once again this week to continue the talks with the sides.

Kerry said he managed to make progress in his talks with Abbas and Netanyahu in recent days; however, both the Israelis and the Palestinians had quite a number of reservations on the American framework. A senior American official briefed on the details of Kerry's meetings said both sides expressed skepticism about different parts of the plan.

The Palestinian response was mostly negative. The Palestinians did not completely reject the proposal and expressed willingness to continue to discuss it. Nonetheless, they claimed that a large part of its components constitute the continuation of the occupation and will even extend it for many years.

The response from the Israeli side was vaguer. Netanyahu did not reject the proposals out of hand either, during his three meetings with Kerry. The prime minister was satisfied with many parts of the American plan, especially on the question of continued Israeli military presence along the Jordan River; but Netanyahu also presented a number of reservations - and even expressed skepticism as to the Palestinian willingness to accept the proposal.

There is a disagreement on the Israeli side between Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians. Ya'alon objects to most of the sections of the American proposal, and especially to the removal of IDF forces from most of the West Bank, except for the Jordan Valley. Ya'alon thinks the reliance on technological systems for intelligence and early warning is inadequate and that at least for the foreseeable future, the Israeli military must continue to preserve its complete freedom of action in all areas of the future Palestinian state to prevent terror attacks. In addition, Ya'alon objects to any Palestinian presence in the border crossings with Jordan.

On the other side is Livni, who has presented the opposite opinion in various meetings. She said the American framework addresses a large part of Israel's security needs. Livni feels it is unrealistic to think that Israel can receive all it is demanding and make progress in the peace talks with zero risks.

Before leaving Israel, Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinians were closer to a peace agreement than ever before. Both in Jerusalem and Ramallah were puzzled over Kerry's statement. The gaps between the two sides on all major issues remain large, and no one sees how these differences can be bridged in the five months remaining for the scheduled negotiations. Senior Israeli officials even said there will be no choice but to extend the 9 month timetable budgeted for the negotiations by another few months.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who spoke to the forum of the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy in Washington Friday evening, made it clear he did not agree with Kerry's statements and described the situation in the negotiations as at a dead end - unless there was something he did not know about.

Lieberman said he felt there was great will to reach an agreement, but he thought it would be impossible. He said the sides were not close to an agreement, not even an interim one.

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