Kerry, who is visiting the region for the 10th time in the past 9 months, will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in hope of achieving a framework agreement that would include an outline for a final agreement.
Kerry is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon and with Abbas on Friday evening and on Saturday morning. He will return for an additional meeting with Netanyahu on Saturday night and may hold more meetings with the two on Sunday if there is any development over the weekend. From Israel he would move on to Jordan on Sunday.
The Jerusalem Post quoted an official from the U.S. State Department as saying that Kerry is not expecting a breakthrough but hopes to get some agreements on the guidelines to be included in a final peace agreement.
There are currently two main issues dividing the parties and causing the deterioration of the talks, which resumed in July amid Kerry’s incessant efforts.
First, Israel demands to station security forces in the Jordan Valley, on the eastern part of the West Bank, on lands set to be part of a future Palestinian state. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vehemently opposes this demand.
Moreover, several right-wing Israeli ministers are striving to legislate a bill to annex the Jordan Valley, despite the objection of more dovish members of the Israeli government, including chief negotiator Tzipi Livni who said she would appeal the bill proposal.
And Israel is set to announce another round of construction in the settlements, following its release on Monday of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
The Ha’aretz daily reported that Netanyahu instructed housing minister Uri Ariel not to announce the new housing units until Kerry finishes his visit in order to prevent embarrassment for Israeli officials.
On both issues, it appears that Netanyahu is working to appease the far-right members of his coalition, namely members of the Jewish Home Party, who are against the release of prisoners but also vehemently oppose halt in the settlements construction and denounce the “two states” solution.
Several Israeli politicians headed by interior minister Gideon Sa’ar still visited a settlement in the Jordan Valley several hours before Kerry’s arrival and announced that Israel would remain there for “eternity.”