United States Secretary of State, John Kerry is returning to the Middle East to continue the peace talks between Israel and Paletine. The top U.S. diplomat will discuss a framework for the peace agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine immediately after his arrival in the region on Thursday.
Sec. Kerry is not expecting any big development during this meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, according to an official from the U.S. State Department. Kerry’s primary objective is to urge both leaders to agree on the guidelines for the final peace agreement.
A State Department Official said, “We have established very well where the gaps are, but also generated some ideas that could help to serve as ways of bridging those gaps. The secretary’s trip this time is to start to test those ideas with the two leaders.”
In addition, the official said, “It is a two-stage process in our minds, agreement on a framework for negotiations and then a permanent-status agreement or a peace treaty.” U.S. officials are hoping that Israel and Palestine could enter a final peace agreement by April this year.
Some of the guidelines for the framework include the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 Green Line Border, the proposed land swaps, and recognition to Israel as a Jewish state.
According to reports, under the proposed land swaps, Israel is willing to transfer an area in the northern part of the country known as The Triangle with 300,000 Arab Israeli citizen to the new Palestine state in exchange to a settlement bloc—currently claimed by Palestine with a large population of Jewish Israelis.
There is no official confirmation from the government of Israel regarding the proposed land swaps, but many Palestinians rejected the idea and described it as a potential “ethnic cleansing” and “war crime.”
In his recent public statements, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized that Palestine’s recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a key issue in the peace talks. However, President Abbas repeatedly stated that Palestine would never agree to that demand.
Palestine explained that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would alienate its 1.6 million Arab citizens and undermine, undermines the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, and it requires a psychological re-writing of history regarding their long-time presence in the country. Israel assured that it would protect the status of the Arab citizens, and the issue regarding refugees would be resolve separately.
“The core of this conflict has never been borders and settlements — it’s about one thing: the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state in any border. We recognize that in peace there will be a nation-state for the Palestinian people. Surely we’re entitled to expect them to do the same,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu in a video statement during the Saban Forum in Washington last month.