Abbas Raises Concerns to Obama on Kerry's Security Proposal

In unofficial memorandum, Palestinian president tries to influence U.S. position ahead of 'framework agreement' presentation.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent U.S. President Barack Obama a document last week in which he set out the Palestinian positions on all the core issues in negotiations with Israel. Abbas also outlined his reservations and concerns about ideas he has heard from Secretary of State John Kerry on security arrangements in the West Bank and other issues.

Five Israeli and Palestinian sources close to the matter said that Abbas has decided not to make do with conveying his objections to Kerry or special envoy Martin Indyk, but rather to inform Obama directly of the Palestinian positions.

The reason for Abbas’ decision, according to three of the sources, was his deep disappointment with the positions Kerry had presented to him, especially with regard to security arrangements in the West Bank in a future peace agreement. One of the sources said that Abbas left a meeting with Kerry on December 6 “boiling mad” and wanted to send Obama a personal letter. However, in the end he decided to write an unofficial memorandum, a “non-paper.”

Abbas made do with sending the unofficial memorandum so as not to reject outright all of Kerry’s ideas and slam the door on American mediation. Abbas hopes that the document he sent to Obama will influence U.S. positions, especially ahead of presentation of the “framework agreement” which Kerry, Indyk and their people are working on, at the end of January. The framework agreement is expected to include principles for resolution of all the core issues of the conflict.

In addition to addressing security arrangements, Abbas’ three-page document also dealt with other core issues, such as the borders of the Palestinian state, the settlements, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and others.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council said in response: We do not comment on presidential correspondence.”

The issue that particularly angered Abbas was not Kerry’s proposal that the Israel Defense Forces remain in the Jordan Valley for 10 years, but rather the idea that at the end of that period, the force would leave the region only if the Palestinians met the test of implementation. Abbas realized that this would give Israel the right of veto on the withdrawal of its troops from the Jordan Valley.

Abbas’ memorandum also said that the Palestinians had arrived at understandings with Israel on security arrangements during Ehud Olmert’s term as prime minister, based among other things on a plan formulated by U.S. Gen. James Jones, who later served as Obama’s national security adviser. That plan called for deployment of an international NATO force under American command to prevent terrorism, illegal border crossings and smugglings.

Abbas wrote Obama that the Palestinians are still willing to accept the understandings on security arrangements achieved during Olmert’s term, and they also accepted a gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops, but would not agree to an Israeli presence for an unlimited period in the Palestinian state.

Abbas’ office did not publicize the memorandum so as not to increase tensions vis a vis Kerry. However, a senior Palestinian official said there is “a real crisis of faith” vis a vis Kerry following the positions he presented in the last two meetings with Abbas over the past two weeks.

The Palestinians feel that Kerry is not an honest broker and tends toward the Israeli positions. They say Kerry’s positions are compensation to Israel for the interim agreement signed between the six powers and Iran a few weeks ago. Kerry has come under similar criticism by Israeli cabinet ministers who say he is not an honest broker because his positions tend toward the Palestinians.

Kerry visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority twice in the last three weeks. It is believed he will return to the region only in January after the Christmas and New Year vacation.

Kerry’s main challenge in the coming two weeks will be the release of the third group of Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel from before the Oslo Accords. A senior Israeli official said that Kerry, Indyk and other senior American officials were pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rein in reports on new construction in the settlements following the prisoner release.

Another senior American official said that Netanyahu had told Kerry during their most recent meetings in Jerusalem that Israel intends to announce new tenders for construction in the settlements after the prisoner release.

Former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin wrote in a column in the daily Israel Hayom that after the third prisoner release on December 29, Netanyahu intends to approve tenders for 2,000 housing units and that Kerry had reported this to Abbas, who became even more furious over it.

The Americans fear that the Palestinians, already frustrated over U.S. positions on security arrangements, will not accept the tenders for thousands of new housing units and will stop negotiating entirely.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah December 5, 2013.Credit: Reuters

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott