Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at a weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Gali Tibbon • Associated Press,

Abbas wants a U.S.-led force to patrol a future Palestinian state

  • Article by: Jodi Rudoren
  • New York Times
  • February 2, 2014 - 9:08 PM

– Six months into peace talks dominated by discussion about security, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has proposed to Secretary of State John Kerry that a U.S.-led NATO force patrol a future Palestinian state indefinitely, with troops throughout the territory, at all crossings, and within Jerusalem.

Abbas said in an interview with the New York Times that Israeli soldiers could remain in the West Bank for up to five years — not three, as he previously stated.

He also said that Jewish settlements should be phased out of the new Palestinian state along a similar timetable.

Palestine, he said, would not have its own army, so the NATO mission would be responsible for preventing the weapons smuggling and terrorism that Israel fears.

“We will be demilitarized,” he said. “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?”

The interview underscored the significant gaps remaining between the two sides. Israel has insisted on a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley and on controlling the timing and conditions for the withdrawal of its troops.

Abbas’ proposal comes at a sensitive stage of U.S.-brokered negotiations. Kerry is preparing to present a framework of core principles for a peace deal, including a security plan, a border roughly along the 1967 lines, Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Jerusalem as a shared capital.

The specificity of the framework’s language, and how the Israeli and Palestinian leaders express reservations to it, will likely determine whether the talks continue past the April 29 expiration date.

One possibility, according to several people engaged in the process, is to extend the negotiations through 2014, with Israel agreeing to freeze settlement construction in areas planned to become part of Palestine under the framework, and Abbas holding off joining the International Criminal Court and U.N. agencies — steps that both Israel and the United States vigorously oppose.

“It’s not a sacred date,” Abbas said. “Suppose by the end of nine months, we got something promising, shall I stop? I will not stop. If, after nine months, we didn’t get anything, if there is nothing on the horizon, we will stop.”

Abbas also distanced himself somewhat from Kerry’s framework, saying, “He has the right to do whatever he wants, and at the end we have the right to say whatever we want.”

This echoed the statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that “Israel does not have to agree with everything America presents.”

Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed warnings by Kerry that Israel could be targeted by a growing boycott campaign if peace talks fail.

Netanyahu tried to reassure Israelis, saying any boycott attempts are immoral, unjust and “will not achieve their goal,” while two government ministers accused Kerry of unfair pressure tactics and not standing by Israel.

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