In one of his major concessions in this round of the peace process initiated in July, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he would accept an Israeli military presence in a future sovereign and independent State, for a period of three years.
“Whoever proposes a transition period of 10 or 15 years does not really want to retreat,” Abbas said in an interview played Tuesday at a security conference. He referenced proposals by Israeli ministers who support the creation of a Palestinian state, but who estimate a transition period to be of 10 and 40 years.
“A transition period may not exceed three years, during which Israel would withdraw gradually,” Abbas said in the interview, conducted in Arabic. The interview was conceded at the Institute for National Security Studies and was aired by the Palestinian news agency Maan. “We are also willing to have a third party take place during and after Israel ‘s withdrawal to allay concerns and provide assurances to both sides that things will proceed normally,” he added.
Israel, however, has rejected negotiations in the presence of an international force such as the United Nations or NATO on Palestinian soil. Both parties have until April 29 to negotiate and reach an agreement, at the request of the Secretary of State, John Kerry.
On Tuesday a Palestinian delegation met with Kerry in Washington. In recent weeks, the head of U.S. diplomacy has prepared a framework agreement to be submitted to Israelis and Palestinians to accept it in whole or in parts, in an attempt to facilitate an extension of the negotiating process which had been frozen for three years.
The White House has commissioned retired Gen. John Allen, former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, to come up with a security plan in the event of a peace agreement, with special attention to the Jordan Valley, which separates the territories of Palestine and Jordan.
There is a big resistance from the Israeli military leadership to leave the area, which is considered as a crucial barrier to safety. In a speech in October Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that for the Israeli state it is necessary to have a “security border at the Jordan Valley.”
If Israel maintains control of the Jordan Valley, it would surround almost all the borders of the territory of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Palestinian negotiators reject the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley due to economic reasons. According to the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine, agricultural settlements in the area provide the Israelis more than $600 million dollars a year. The Palestinians complain that they are allowed only on 4.7% of the land of this fertile valley.
The peace process has been, at least publicly, to break the coalition government in Israel, which is represented by several leading colonists. On Friday, in the course of three interviews with Kerry at an economic conference in Davos, Netanyahu said he has no intention to evacuate any Jewish settler in the West Bank and is willing to accept that anyone who wants to live under Palestinian sovereignty can do so. His own finance minister, Naftali Bennett, from the Habayit Hayehudi, described those assurances as “irrational” and “dangerous”.
Israel invaded and occupied what is now the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a land that used to be under Jordanian control before the war of 1967. Today, the area is occupied by some 500,000 Jewish settlers. The vast majority, live in settlement blocs which in the future, according to diplomatic sources would be annexed to Israel in exchange for similar lands elsewhere.
In his interview Tuesday, Abbas wanted to dispel one of the big questions about the Palestinian commitments in this negotiating process. How can Israel be assured that peace will be reliable and durable if the Gaza Strip, separated from the West Bank, is governed by the Islamist group Hamas, a declared enemy of them? “Hamas is not a problem, leave it to us,” he said. “We will seal an agreement with Israel on behalf of the entire Palestinian people in the West Bank, Gaza and in exile.”
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute. Read more about Luis.