Report: Kerry Pressuring Netanyahu to Allow Limited Arab ‘Right of Return’
by Gidon Ben-Zvi
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to allow Palestinian-Arab “refugees” to move to Israel, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Monday. According to the report, Netanyahu has thus far rejected Kerry’s latest overtures.
The Secretary of State spent last weekend shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah in an attempt to hash out an American position paper that would be used as the basis for a framework peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Continuing his shuttle diplomacy, Kerry arrived in Jerusalem yesterday and is expected to return yet again next week for further talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. According to the Ma’ariv report, Kerry believes that if he can persuade Abbas to agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, then Netanyahu will show more flexibility regarding the refugee issue.
To date, the Secretary of State’s plan to deal with the PA’s claim of refugee status for millions of Arabs is ever-shifting. Among Kerry’s recent ideas is to limit the reunification of Arab families to between residents of Judea and Samaria and Israel. This attempt at a compromise solution has thus far not satisfied the demands of the Palestinian Authority.
Despite the apparent impasse, Kerry is confident that if he can deliver Palestinian Authority recognition of a Jewish state, along with a framework agreement that includes security arrangements amenable to the Israeli government, then Prime Minister Netanyahu will ultimately approve the drafting of a peace treaty that allows for the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, along with land swaps, Ma’ariv reports.
Regarding the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, senior Israeli sources said yesterday that talks between Israel and the PA will be extended another year, until January 2015, according to Ma’ariv.
Although the peace talks were supposed to end in April 2014, Israel seems determined to extend the deadline and is willing to pay a certain price, Ma’ariv reports. Specifically, Israel would agree to freeze construction in some areas of Judea and Samaria.