Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog reached understandings on the main principles of a peace agreement through secret talks they conducted prior to the 2015 election, Israel's Channel 10 reported Sunday night.
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Former Labor MK Ephraim Sneh represented Herzog in the talks, while a senior Palestinian official represented Abbas.
The two agreed that the Arab Peace Initiative should be the basis for a new Middle East reality to be created by the signing of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. They also reached understandings on various issues, which were incorporated in a document drafted in April 2014.
However, Herzog shelved these understandings immediately after the election.
With regard to borders, the two reportedly agreed that the Palestinian state should include an area equivalent to 100 percent of the territory Israel captured during the Six-Day War of 1967, which would be adjusted through land swaps equivalent to four percent of this territory.
The two men also agreed that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a Palestinian state and Israel would withdraw from neighborhoods in that part of the city, but both halves of the city would be governed by a single municipal administration. A multinational force would operate on the Temple Mount, but Israel would retain sovereignty in the area of the Western Wall.
On refugees, the parties agreed that that the solution would be based on UN Resolution 194, as called for in the Arab Peace Initiative. Specifically, the document said, what this means is that most refugees would receive financial compensation, while a symbolic number, to be jointly agreed on, would be allowed to “return” to Israel.
On security, the parties agreed to a symbolic Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. They also agreed that Israel would able to monitor the border crossings between Jordan and Palestine via technological means, and that in the event of a drastic change in the existing order east of the Jordan River, Israel would be able to use two parts of the Jordan Valley as staging areas for its armored corps. Finally, counterterrorism efforts would be supervised by a joint body comprising representatives from Israel, Jordan and Palestine.
In response to Channel 10’s report, Herzog said, “In my contacts with the Palestinian Authority president during 2014, I made efforts whose goal was to reach understandings that would have prevented the wave of terror whose arrival I foresaw, just like I’m making efforts now so that this extreme right-wing government’s abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference won’t bring the next war down upon us.”
Top Palestinian officials downplayed the report, saying that the talks between Abbas and Herzog didn't constitute an agreement. "We didn't treat it as if it's something that can be implemented, since obviously the one who makes the decision ultimately is the Israeli prime minister," an official close to Abbas said. He added that it was the official Palestinian stance that East Jerusalem would be the capital of the Palestinian state, and that the city as a whole would be managed by a joint Israeli-Palestinian municipality.