Israel’s deputy defence minister ruled out Thursday any compromise on security in the Jordan Valley as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The Americans are proposing joint control over the crossing points (into Jordan),” Danny Danon told Israel’s army radio.
“From the Israeli point of view, there will not be any Palestinian presence at the crossing points,” said the deputy minister, who is a radical member of Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party.
“An Israeli civilian and military presence in the Jordan Valley is essential.”
Kerry arrived in Israel late on Wednesday in his latest attempt to drive forward the faltering peace talks which have almost reached the halfway point with very little visible progress.
US officials have said the focus this time would be on Israel’s security arrangements, although they have refused to confirm media reports that Kerry was to present Netanyahu with a plan of how this could look in the context of a peace deal.
Israel has always insisted that in any final agreement, it would have to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, which runs down the eastern flank of the West Bank, bordering Jordan.
According to a report in Maariv newspaper, when US General John Allen briefs Netanyahu during the morning meeting, he will outline a “bridging proposal” which will enable Israel to reduce, as much as possible, its military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Quoting senior diplomats, the paper said the plan would outline arrangements for a transitional period and a permanent status arrangement and may include “guarantees, advanced technological equipment and unique weaponry” which would enable Israel to either “reduce or to replace its military presence along the Jordan River”.
A central part of the plan would address early warning stations and security over air space, particularly around Israel’s main international airport near Tel Aviv.
Haaretz newspaper on Wednesday said Washington was now focusing on resolving Israel’s security needs in the hope it will allow them to push Netanyahu on other aspects, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state.
“The Americans have concluded that Netanyahu will not agree to move forward on other elements (of a peace deal) such as the borders of a future Palestinian state without an arrangement on security,” it said.
Israel has demanded that any future Palestinian state to be demilitarised with an Israeli military presence along the Jordan Valley.
Netanyahu has said Israel would only accept the emergence of a Palestinian state if it was demilitarised, with Israeli troops deployed along the Jordan Valley.
And he has completely ruled out any transfer of security control in the border area to a third party — an option which would be acceptable to the Palestinians.
After talks with Netanyahu, Kerry will head to Ramallah to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at 1200 GMT.