US plan keeps Israeli army in Jordan Valley for 10 years 11Dec13 December 11, 2013

Haaretz   -    10 December 2013

3532877604The new security plan that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week, as part of a future Palestinian state, calls for Israel to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 years, the Palestinian daily Al Ayyam reported Tuesday.

A senior Palestinian official, who was not identified, told Al Ayyam that the 10-year period was to be used for training and strengthening the Palestinian security forces, before gradually transferring control of the Jordan Valley to them. According to the report, Kerry’s proposal includes an “invisible” Israeli presence at the border crossings between Jordan and the future Palestinian state.

Kerry hinted at this part of the U.S. proposal during his Saturday-night speech at Washington’s Saban Forum, an annual dialogue between Israeli and American leaders sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

“Needless to say, for a period of time this will obviously involve Israeli participation. It has to. But there also have to be objective standards by which we measure the performance … It will take time to train, build, equip and test Palestinian institutions to ensure that they’re capable of protecting Palestinian citizens — their primary responsibility is that — and also of preventing their territory from being used for attacks on Israel,” Kerry said.

The Palestinians are vehemently opposed to Kerry’s security proposal. Al Ayyam characterized Friday’s meeting, in which Kerry presented the plan to Abbas, as “worse than bad.”

Abbas views Kerry’s proposal as a retreat from the proposal drawn up by U.S. Gen. James Jones in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of 2007-08.

That plan excluded an Israeli military presence within the borders of the Palestinian state. Instead, a NATO international force, under American command, would be stationed in the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank for an extended period of time to guarantee security.

Abbas believes the Americans have completely embraced Israel’s position regarding the Jordan Valley, the border crossings and control of the air space of a future Palestinian state. Al Ayyam reported that on Sunday Abbas summoned the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney, to a meeting, in which Abbas said the Palestinians are willing to have an international force stationed on the West Bank, but will not agree to the presence of a single Israeli soldier in the territory of the Palestinian state.

Despite Palestinian opposition and Israeli reservations regarding the U.S. proposal, Kerry is not giving up. He is scheduled to return to the region on Thursday. He will meet separately with Abbas and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for additional discussions on the details of the security proposal.

Kerry met in Washington on Monday with the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat, respectively, and the U.S. envoy to the peace process, Martin Indyk. At the meeting Kerry was briefed on the progress in the negotiations.

Livni, Erekat and Indyk attended the Saban Forum in Washington over the weekend, and on Sunday the three negotiators met twice. In the past two and a half weeks the negotiating teams met five times, alternating the location between Jerusalem and Jericho. Nevertheless, there is still a wide gap between the Palestinian and Israeli positions. Netanyahu even went so far as to say on Monday that despite the optimism expressed by Washington, the parties are not at the brink of signing a final-status agreement.

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