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“Middle East Peace Process Update”
by Prophecy News Watch   
March 15th, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to take a more “active role” in the Israel-PA negotiations. Obama will meet Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on March 17, AFP reported on Thursday, stepping up Washington's efforts to convince the PA leader to embrace a peace deal with Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry who has been spearheading a plan which seeks to seal a full Middle East peace deal was able to coax the two sides back to the negotiating table in late July last year, after a three year hiatus and after Obama's initial drive to secure a peace deal floundered in his first term. 

Despite Kerry's intense attention, the talks have shown little sign of progress, with each side blaming the other for the stalemate. The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel stands at the heart of the conflict, and Abbas has rejected Kerry’s plan on the grounds that it does not take into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times published some alleged details of Kerry’s proposed framework, reporting that the plan will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with "unprecedented" security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley. 

The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs, but Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory. The deal will call for “Palestine” to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into pre-1967 Israel.

President Obama, who also recently met with Netanyahu, pushed the Israeli Prime minister to accept Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan, which has been described by some as a controversial one. Kerry, who has been the force behind an exhaustive diplomatic push, admitted in late February that he would not be successful in his quest to seal a full Middle East peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) by an April expiration deadline.

Obama called on Netanyahu to articulate an alternative and plausible approach to deal with the stalemate, saying that Israel would face a bleak future if the talks failed. Obama was concerned that the American ability to protect Israel against global isolation was waning, in particular if the Palestinians decide that there is no chance for them to achieve statehood.

Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that any peace deal with the Palestinians would take at least another year to negotiate should both sides accept US-proposed principles to keep talks going.

In an Israel Radio interview broadcast, Netanyahu reiterated that he regarded guidelines that US Secretary of State John Kerry is drafting for a future deal as an "American document of American positions".

Such a definition could give Netanyahu leeway to register reservations that could discourage staunch supporters of Jewish settlement in the West Bank where Palestinians want to make their state from bolting his coalition. Netanyahu, who thought that the Kerry plan could be a possible path toward moving the talks forward said that he doubted the Palestinians would accept this document.

In an interview on Channel 2 News last week, Netanyahu said that Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control. He also said that not all the communities in Judea and Samaria would be part of Israel in a peace agreement, but that he would do his utmost to ensure that as many as possible do remain under Israeli control.

Asked whether he would be willing to consider evicting Jewish communities as part of a future peace deal, Netanyahu replied, “It’s obvious that some of the settlements will not be part of an agreement. Everyone knows that. I will ensure that it’s the smallest number possible, if we get to that point. And I will not abandon any Israeli.” Netanyahu added, however, that he would limit as much as he could the number of enclaves removed. Palestinians say settlements that dot much of the West Bank landscape would bar them from establishing a contiguous state, a goal of the peace talks.

In light of this, President Netanyahu has been reportedly looking into the possibility of working with an 'Enclave Peace Plan.' This would entail applying a Dutch-Belgian enclave model to the peace agreement with the PA. According to the report, Netanyahu has directed Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit to look into this issue and submit a report on its possible implementation, as well as to whether it is legally and practically possible to reach a similar solution with the PA. If this model were applied, it would leave any Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria in enclaves within the Palestinian state.

Under the Dutch-Belgian model, Belgian citizens who reside in the Netherlands are also considered local citizens who maintain their rights. The Belgian municipality of Baarle-Hertog has some territory made up of exclaves in the Dutch province of North Brabant. There are also twenty Belgian exclaves in the Netherlands and three other sections on the Dutch-Belgian border. There are also seven Dutch exclaves within the Belgian exclaves.

There was no official comment on Sunday’s report from the Prime Minister’s Office, but the Labor Party’s Israel Omer Bar-Lev, who serves as the Party’s point person on issues of peace and defense rejected the idea, calling it “crazy”. He said, “The idea of enclaves is a crazy one from a security standpoint.” He added, “I hope that the Prime Minister is only trying to create a spin and is not seriously thinking about this idea, primarily because it would endanger the security of Israeli citizens who would remain in those theoretical enclaves.” 

He continued, "Israel has no reserves of land to give to the Palestinians that would allow it to retain large areas beyond the settlement blocs without giving away land located within the Green Line. The Prime Minister must stop running away from the complicated reality and unequivocally decide on a separation from the Palestinians that will allow Israel to fulfill its national goals.”

It seems also that Netanyahu’s plan is not likely to be accepted by the PA, considering that its Chairman Mahmoud has categorically stated that there will be no official Israeli presence in the future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s remarks in the interview have also been criticized by other nationalists. On Sunday, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett added to the voice of the dissidents saying that despite what Netanyahu said, all Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria would remain under Israeli sovereignty. Bennet also said, “The whole Land of Israel is a single bloc. There are those who say we can build inside the settlement blocs, and others who say we may not be able to hold onto the towns outside the blocs. I have come to tell you what the Arabs already know – that the Land of Israel is one bloc.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon of the Likud Party also criticized Netanyahu, saying, "The Likud's position is to build and not to destroy. The Likud will not be a party to expulsions of Israelis from their homes, to conceding lands and to destroying communities. We already handed over territory in the past and in return we got rockets on Israeli cities.” Danon added that the people of Israel are no longer disillusioned by the equation of land for peace, because in essence it is “land for terror.”

As Kerry said early this year, “We really are at a critical point, as Palestinians and Israeli leaders grapple with difficult and challenging decisions that lie ahead."  He added that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu who have both demonstrated courageous and determined leadership in recent months will be contemplating even tougher choices in the weeks ahead."

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