Jan 25, 2022
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Kerry and Netanyahu Discuss Peace

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discuss a framework for peace in the Middle East. (Photo: @IsraeliPM/Twitter)

After five days of back and forth, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left the Middle Eastern region with still no decisive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry is expected to return to Israel next week to continue talks and present a framework outlining basic principles that both sides would follow to create peace.

Israeli Primie Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed Likud MK’s regarding the peace talks. He made clear that there will be certain principles Israel will not like within the American peace framework and that the Palestinians will not be happy with some principles themselves. With an April deadline not too far away, should both Israel and the Palestinians agree to the framework presented by the U.S., then further negotiations would take place centered around the American document.

One of the most controversial issues surrounding peace negotiations is the issue of Israel’s border. The U.S. framework is planning to propose a principle that in the end, a Palestinian state would be created based on the 1967 lines with minor land swaps and that Palestinian refugees were to be absorbed into the future Palestinian state. On the side of the Palestinians, it would be expected that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a legitimate state of the Jewish people. These two sticking points have been the downfall of previous peace negotiations.

In meetings with Kerry, Netanyahu has been attempting to persuade the Secretary of State on the strategic and national importance of maintaining a presence in Judea and Samaria. Areas of historical and religious significance would be maintained by Israel as well as those zones that prove crucial in Israel’s ability to defend itself. Israel does not want to undergo another scenario similar to what happened in 2005, when Israel gave over control of the Gaza area to Palestinians. Since 2005, Gaza has turned into a hotbed of violent terrorist activity, with rocket attacks aimed at Israeli cities becoming an all too frequent occurrence.

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has voiced his opposition against Israel accepting any Palestinian “refugees” without land swaps. Liberman has proposed a plan that would include territorial and population exchanges. Finance Minister Yair Lapid stated to Army Radio that Liberman’s plan was unfeasible.

“I don’t think that the State of Israel will get rid of Israeli citizens,” Lapid said. “One of the things that we expect from a final-status agreement is that it would bring about a complete change in our relations with the world, which have been in constant decline these last few years.” Lapid went on to explain that “An agreement [that would entail population transfers] would mean giving up an improvement in our relations, and I don’t want that.”

Government officials close to Netanyahu report that the Prime Minister has not shown any indication of accepting refugees as part of the peace plan. Kerry has asked both sides to be flexible and open minded in discussing and finalizing a comprehensive framework towards a lasting peace.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, at a lecture at Hebrew University on Monday, called Netanyahu an “idiot” for the way he was handling the peace negotiations. “In time of peace, even an idiotic prime minister can come out looking good,” he said. “Of course, a tembel [idiot] prime minister cannot make peace, and if he makes peace he’s not an idiot.”

Discussing the current peace negotiations, Olmert fiercely supported peace with the Palestinians and added it was of the upmost importance. With peace, Olmert hopes that Israel will “become the center of the Middle East and people will invest academically and economically in us. The region will be much more successful and stable if the peace deal happens.”