Itongadol.- Amid Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reservations concerning the Arab League\’s stance on the borders of a future Palestinian state, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and special envoy Isaac Molho arrived in Washington on Thursday for a lightning visit of just a few hours to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Livni flies to Washington for talks with Kerry on Arab League proposal for Palestinian state
Molho and Livni, who represent Israel in negotiations with the Palestinians, will use the quick trip to focus on U.S. efforts to jump start the Middle East peace process.
Livni met with Netanyahu at the Knesset on Wednesday to coordinate the messages to deliver to Kerry, a senior Israeli official said.
Livni and Molho will meet Kerry on Thursday evening, Israel time. Immediately after, Livni will leave for New York for talks with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Following a delegation meeting with Kerry on Monday, the Arab League endorsed a Mideast peace plan that would allow for small shifts in Israel’s 1967 border and landswaps, moving it closer to the two-state concept endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama.
On behalf of the delegation Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani presented the Arab League\’s proposal to accept an agreement based on “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to a senior Israeli official, Livni and Molho will use the meeting in Washington to try to gauge Kerry’s position on the Arab League announcement, and understand his plan concerning the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The two will also present Kerry with Israel’s reservations regarding the Arab League announcement.
Haaretz earlier Thursday quoted an Israeli source saying that Netanyahu and his aides fear that Kerry will accept the Arab League definition of the borders for a Palestinian state and the principle of territorial exchanges.
The source said that while Netanyahu\’s aides acknowledge positive parts of the Arab League’s announcement, such as the desire to renew the peace process, they see more disadvantages in it than opportunities.
“The prime minister’s advisers are not keen about the Arab League’s announcement,” the source said. “Netanyahu and his advisers believe it would have been better had this announcement not been made.”
The source also said that Netanyahu and his aides see the Arab League’s declaration as a “trick” that could determine opening terms for negotiations that would be bad for Israel.
Netanyahu and his aides’ objections result from the emphasis in the Arab announcement that they are willing to endorse “small shifts” in Israel’s 1967 borders, by means of “minimal” land swaps of identical size.
In recent years the Palestinians have said they were ready to exchange 1.9 percent of the West Bank’s area.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said they were willing to accept land swaps of 6-10 percent of the West Bank’s area. That would allow Israel to retain many more settlements than the smaller land exchange the Palestinians favor.
The American administration’s position, expressed in Obama’s speech in May 2011, is that the Palestinian state’s borders must be based on the ‘67 borders with territorial exchanges, without mention of their size.
A few days later Obama added that the Palestinian state’s borders must take into account the changes made since 1967, i.e. the large settlement blocs.