TEL AVIV, Israel — The question of who should be responsible for security, particularly in the Jordan Valley, and for how long, has been central in the U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians that started last summer.
Israel has long insisted that it could depend only on its own soldiers, not an international force, with some leaders suggesting that they might stay for 40 years or more. Palestinian officials have said they could not tolerate even a single Israeli soldier patrolling their future state, although they have acknowledged that some transition period would most likely be required.
“We say that a transition period not exceed three years, during which Israel will withdraw gradually,” President Mahmoud Abbas said in a videotaped interview shown at an Israeli security conference, in his most specific recent public comments on the subject. “We are willing to allow a third party to take Israel’s place during and after a withdrawal in order to soothe our concerns and Israel’s.”
He suggested NATO as “the suitable party.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel declined to respond to Abbas’ comments, and Netanyahu himself did not directly address them in his own speech Tuesday night at the conference, sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies. But the prime minister said that “the Palestinian state must be demilitarized,” and that any deal would require “security arrangements that are embedded in the hands of Israel so we will be able to secure ourselves and protect ourselves.”
Netanyahu, who met last week in Davos, Switzerland, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, distanced himself from the “framework” Kerry is expected to present soon that will lay out core principles for continuing the negotiations.
“These are American positions,” he said. “Israel does not have to agree to everything America presents.”
Abbas said in the interview that an agreement addressing the problem of refugees and establishing a Palestinian state roughly along the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital would “be an acceptable, lasting and legitimate solution.” He said Hamas, the militant Islamic faction that runs the Gaza Strip, had signed an agreement with him supporting the negotiations process, and “is not a problem.”
Echoing Kerry, Abbas said that under the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, Israel could earn recognition and diplomatic relations with 57 Arab and Muslim countries if it resolved the Palestinian conflict.
“I hope that the Israeli people will understand what it means to live in a vicinity of peace from Mauritania to Indonesia rather than in the current situation,” he said.