Report: Netanyahu rejected Obama administration’s peace plan in secret talks

by WorldTribune Staff, February 19, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shot down a regional peace initiative presented by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a secret meeting last year that included Egypt and Jordan, a report said.

The meeting was held on Feb. 21, 2016 in the Egyptian resort town of Aqaba and included Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi, Haaretz reported on Feb. 18, citing unidentified former officials in the Obama administration.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. /AFP/File

According to the report, Kerry outlined a proposal that included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians, backed by Arab nations.

Abdullah and Sisi tried to convince Netanyahu to accept the proposal, the report said, but Netanyahu presented a plan of his own, asking that negotiations with the Palestinians be resumed and that a regional peace summit be convened that would include senior representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni Muslim countries.

The leaders returned home to consider the proposals. Netanyahu reportedly briefed opposition leader Isaac Herzog on the Aqaba summit. Herzog declined to confirm any details to Haaretz. The Prime Minister’s Office also declined to comment.

According to the report, Sisi and Abdullah saw the entry of Herzog or another opposition figure into Netanyahu’s coalition government as a potential rationale to press Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who was made aware of the secret talks by Kerry, and to help secure the participation of the Saudis and other Arab countries in a regional summit.

Netanyahu’s coalition negotiations never materialized and he abandoned the talks with Herzog, subsequently bringing in Avigdor Lieberman into his government as defense minister.

A substantial portion of the discussions in Aqaba regarded the situation in the region, the report said, adding that Abdullah and Sisi “took Kerry to task” for the Obama administration’s policies on Iran and Syria.