WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry’s pending framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace will include a shared capital in Jerusalem and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, a newspaper columnist reported.
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Kerry will unveil the proposal “soon,” Thomas Friedman, a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, wrote in Wednesday’s newspaper.
The “Kerry Plan,” as he called it, would also include land swaps based on the 1967 lines, security arrangements in the Jordan Valley, and no “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Such parameters have previously been reported piecemeal in the Israeli and Palestinian media. Friedman’s column is datelined Tel Aviv, and he does not say who his sources are for the plan, although elsewhere in the column he cites anonymous Israeli and US officials.
The outline meets a key Netanyahu demand, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
But it is not clear whether the sides would accept such a plan.
Netanyahu has previously rejected using the 1967 lines as the basis for a border with a Palestinian state and opposes relinquishing Israeli sovereignty within Jerusalem. He also wants Israel to maintain a dominant security presence in the Jordan Valley for the foreseeable future.
Regarding Kerry’s proposal for the Jordan Valley, Friedman describes only “unprecedented security arrangements.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state or negotiate away the rights of Palestinian refugees.
Several Israeli politicians and a host of pundits have said they believe Israel will be blamed if the current round of talks with the Palestinians fails to produce an agreement.
Senior Israeli officials, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, have warned that absent an agreement leading to two states, Israel will face a severe backlash and be isolated economically and politically from the international community.
On Wednesday, Lapid addressed the Institute for National Security Studies’ annual conference, and said that a boycott of Israeli products by European countries would constitute a dramatic blow to the economy.
Based on an evaluation prepared by the Finance Ministry’s chief economist, Lapid said that even a low-scale boycott would “hit every Israeli citizen directly in his pocket.” The cost of living would rise, and education, security, health, and welfare budgets would be slashed, he said.
Furthermore, exports would face a loss of NIS 20 billion ($5.7 billion), GDP would likely be lowered by NIS 11 billion a year, and 9,800 workers would be laid off immediately.
“We must recognize that if the talks fail — and the world will believe they failed because of us — there will be a price, and it’s best we know what that price is,” Lapid said.
Lapid also dismissed claims by Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett Tuesday that a Palestinian state would be an economic burden on Israel. A peace agreement would result in an added NIS 20 billion annually to the state budget, and potential growth of NIS 16 billion in exports, he maintained.
“Today Israel is more exposed economically than it’s exposed from a security perspective,” he added. “The security debate makes us forget occasionally the fact that our military is not a goal, it is a tool. It’s a tool that is meant to allow us to reach an agreement that will strengthen Israel’s economy and guarantee its future as a Jewish state.”
The finance minister’s remarks echoed those of Kerry last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Kerry pointed to the economic benefits Israel would reap from reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, stating that Israel would have immediate diplomatic recognition and economic ties with the Arab and Muslim world and would potentially see a six percent increase in GDP per year.
Lapid’s address came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with senior ministers to discuss European boycotts of Israeli companies.
This was the first time Netanyahu’s government sat down to seriously debate strategies to counter European boycotts. A senior government source told Haaretz that the meeting was spurred by the announcement earlier this month from the Dutch firm PGGM, one of the 20 largest pension asset managers globally, that it had divested from five Israeli banks because they are involved in financing the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
Numerous pension funds in Scandinavia and the Netherlands have already divested in Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems over concerns about its activities in the occupied territories.
Up until last month, the European Union had been considering measures to clearly label products made in the settlements, a move that could harm sales. But discussions on labeling have been put on hold for now, because Europe is working closely with Kerry to support ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.