U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has asked the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia to support Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday.
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Kerry, who is due to meet with Arab League foreign ministers in Paris in another few days, is also hoping to hear a positive approach to this idea from them, the official said.
On Sunday, Kerry met with King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman and then with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh to brief both monarchs on his efforts to draft an Israeli-Palestinian “framework agreement” that would lay down principles for solving all the core issues of the conflict and provide a basis for continued Israeli-Palestinian talks. One of the key issues he discussed with both men was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Kerry has adopted Netanyahu’s position on this issue and is interested in including such recognition in his proposed framework agreement, as he has become convinced that without Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, he will find it very hard to get Netanyahu either to agree to conduct negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines or to demonstrate flexibility on the issue of security arrangements. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has told Kerry he won’t accept such a provision, arguing that it would undermine the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens.
Kerry therefore asked the Jordanian and Saudi monarchs to help him secure Palestinian consent to this provision by promising to back Abbas if he does agree, or at least by promising not to torpedo such a move.
The secretary of state left Riyadh in an optimistic mood. Before leaving, he praised the Saudi king for having come up with the Arab Peace Initiative, and at a brief press conference with the Saudi foreign minister, he said that this initiative would be part of his framework agreement.
“Today, His Majesty was not just encouraging, but supported our efforts and hopes that we can be successful in the days ahead and believes that this is important for the region,” Kerry said.
Kerry also plans to raise the issue of recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people at his meeting with Arab League foreign ministers in Paris in a few days’ time. After that meeting, he is expected to return to the region for another round of shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Tuesday morning, the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam similarly reported that Kerry is looking into the possibility of changing the Arab Peace Initiative so that it would include “recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, without prejudice to the civil rights of Israeli Arabs.” Al-Ayyam attributed its report to an unidentified Arab source.
Ever since taking office, Kerry has worked closely with the Arab League foreign ministers to integrate the Arab Peace Initiative into Israeli-Palestinian talks. In April 2013, he succeeded in persuading them to make one small but significant change in the initiative: Whereas the document originally demanded a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, the ministers now said they would be willing to accept minor changes in the 1967 lines to enable a peace agreement.
This increased flexibility on the part of the Arab League enabled the Palestinians to show more flexibility on borders during negotiations. It also signaled to Israel that the Arab states would accept Israeli retention of the settlement blocs if there were compensatory land swaps.