Following Haaretz Exposé, Netanyahu Says He Initiated Secret Summit With Kerry, Sissi and King Abdullah

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, February 15, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, February 15, 2017.Credit: ZACH GIBSON/AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed at Sunday's Likud ministerial meeting the existence of a secret summit with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Jordan's King Abdullah, as revealed by Haaretz. Netanyahu told the ministers that he was the one to initiate the summit, which took place a year ago in the Jordanian city of Aqaba.

During the summit, Kerry presented a plan for a regional peace initiative including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a renewal of talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries. Netanyahu did not accept Kerry’s proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition.

Details about the summit and the plan emerged from conversations between Haaretz and former senior officials in the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous.

Many political figures responded to Haaretz's Sunday exposé.

Opposition leader and Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog criticized Netanyahu on his Twitter account, saying that "history will definitely judge the magnitude of the opportunity as well as the magnitude of the missed opportunity."

Herzog learned of the summit already at the beginning of March 2016, a few days after it took place. The summit served as the basis for talks he conducted at the time with Netanyahu over the forming of a unity government. These did not prosper, after Netanyahu preferred to bring Yisrael Beiteinu into the government and appoint Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister.

Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich tweeted that the revelation of the Aqaba summit illustrates his party's important role in the coalition. "We will continue to safeguard the State of Israel and Zionism and prevent entering into adventures."  

Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev wrote that "Netanyahu is trampling opportunities with excuses of lack of leadership. He has a coalition for an anti-constitutional law, but can't proffer one as a response for a regional initiative."

Fellow party lawmaker Ksenia Svetlova noted that Netanyahu insisted on regional peace in his meeting last week with U.S. President Donald Trump. "Now the truth is revealed again," she said.

"The prime minister rejected a regional initiative headed by former Secretary of State John Kerry. As Netanyahu has said on a number of occasions – there will be nothing because there is nothing. There's no diplomatic plan. There's no vision and no national responsibility. Netanyahu is leading us to a binational-state disaster."

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon tweeted that in the moment of truth, it again became clear that Netanyahu isn’t interested in the recognition of a Jewish state, putting an end to the conflict or in a regional initiative. "The goal is always the same: to gain time," she said. "At the time I wrote that there's no shortage of rare opportunities for peace. They've been arriving consistently for quite a few years. The problem has always been Netanyahu, not the lack of opportunities."

Fellow Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg also commented on Twitter. "Netanyahu – an extreme conservative, a serial refusenik, captivated by the right wing with no ability to get out of the disaster he is leading Israel to."

Her party colleague Michal Rozin added, "The 'magician' continues to juggle – yes to a Palestinian state, no to a Palestinian state. No to a regional peace initiative, yes to a regional peace initiative. Whatever suits political interests." 

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