Tel Aviv – US and Israeli political sources in Tel Aviv revealed on Thursday two documents showing that US Secretary of State John Kerry was very close to reaching a “declaration of principles” formula with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early 2014.
Sources confirmed that the two documents were handed to US President Donald Trump, who is preparing to reach a settlement on their basis.
The two documents were drafts of a “framework agreement” prepared in 2014 for then-Secretary of State John Kerry as outlines of what would eventually become the final peace agreement.
Both drafts included language on disputes between the Israelis and the Palestinians, including what the borders of a Palestinian state would be, the status of Jerusalem, mutual diplomatic recognition, and refugees.
The first draft was written mid-February 2014, and the second one was written in mid-March the same year.
They both reflect Barack Obama’s positions and were based on secret negotiations between Netanyahu adviser Yitzhak Molcho and Hussein Agha, a confidant of Abbas, in London in 2013.
US senior officials in the former administration said that Netanyahu wanted the US administration to take the results of this dialogue channel and rephrase it in a US document to be presented to both sides.
The first draft was written two days before Kerry and Abbas’s meeting in Paris. At the time, the US team worked closely with Netanyahu office to draft the document. They were hoping to succeed with the Israelis in drafting a text that would be accepted by Netanyahu, and then presenting it to Abbas, thus, transferring the negotiations to the stage of talking about a permanent agreement.
The draft maintained that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, but that both Israelis and Palestinians want their capitals in the city, but did not ensure that those goals would be realized.
The conditions it set for mutual recognition included both states accepting that the other was a legitimate nation state – one for Jews, and another for Palestinians.
Once those states had been established, according to the draft, the “right of return” would be waived, meaning Palestinians living in the West Bank or neighboring countries would not claim the right to return to ancestral homes inside Israel’s borders, most of which were vacated during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.
When the first draft was presented to Abbas, he rejected it. Therefore, the State Department developed a new draft in March 2014, which they hoped would be more pleasing to Abbas. At the top, the document included a new goal: “to end the occupation that began in 1967.”
The new document also took a stronger stance on Jerusalem, insisting that both countries would have their capitals there. The status of the Old City, Jewish neighborhoods, and other religious sites was left open to further negotiations.