Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grave doubts about elements of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan being pressed by Secretary of State John Kerry, said U.S. Senator John McCain.
McCain, an Arizona Republican, spoke to reporters in Jerusalem following a meeting with Netanyahu. His remarks signal the hurdles facing Kerry both in Israel and among pro-Israel lawmakers at home as he seeks agreement on a framework accord to guide negotiations to a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Netanyahu has serious, serious concerns about the plan as it has been presented to him,” McCain said. The concerns, which the prime minister has also stated publicly, include defensible borders, the viability and actions of a Palestinian state, and the overall security provisions for Israel, McCain said.
Kerry, on his 10th visit to Israel since becoming Secretary of State last year, met today with Netanyahu for three hours following five hours of talks yesterday. Kerry goes to Ramallah, in the West Bank, for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later today.
McCain’s use of the word “plan” suggests the talks may be more advanced than Kerry and others have acknowledged. Kerry, in a statement at the start of his talks yesterday, said he is not seeking to impose American ideas on either side.
A State Department official said earlier this week that ideas as well as language to bridge differences between the two sides are being discussed, although there isn’t yet a document setting out a plan. In a visit last month, Kerry presented proposals to address Israel’s security developed by retired Marine General John Allen, a former American commander in Afghanistan who now serves as a Kerry adviser.
McCain is traveling with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Barrasso of Wyoming. The three, who arrived in Jerusalem after a visit to Afghanistan, said they support Kerry’s efforts as long as Israel’s needs are respected.
Kerry met today with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said in a statement afterward that a peace deal “must be based on the strong foundations of security for Israel and a stable economy for the Palestinians.”
He raised the prospect that a peace accord creating Palestine could lead to turmoil in the West Bank. It is “reasonable to assume” that Arab states would expel as many as 3 million Palestinians “to the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.”
“This will create a difficult humanitarian situation, leading again to possible frustration, violence and security problems,” he said in the statement.
Yesterday, Netanyahu greeted Kerry with a statement accusing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of glorifying terrorists. He said there was “growing doubt” in Israel over the Palestinian commitment to peace, illustrating the challenge Kerry faces in getting the sides to agree even on broad outlines of a deal.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in an interview published Friday, accused Israel of not being interested in reaching a final deal.
“Even if Mother Teresa or Thomas Jefferson were to come and say, ‘We want a Palestinian state on 1967 territories with Jerusalem as its capital, and want to find a fair solution to the cause of the Palestinian refugees,’” the Israelis would say, ‘They are terrorists and we must get rid of them,’’’ the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted him as saying.
Kerry said the talks are reaching the point where Israeli and Palestinian leaders “will need to make tough choices.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Terry Atlas in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at email@example.com