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Kerry travels to Middle East for framework of peace

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Secretary of State, John Kerry, is en route to Jerusalem today for a meeting Thursday afternoon to formulate the framework of an outline agreement, while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is advancing previous construction plans over the green line, reports the Jerusalem online today.

Netanyahu is expected to announce the construction today of 1,400 housing units despite the arrival of Kerry, whose plan is to advance peace in the region following the Geneva pact with Iran in December.

The plan for the housing units despite Washington and Palestinian objections is that 600 of the units will be in East Jerusalem, an area annexed by the State of Israel and that Netanyahu insists will remain part of Israel under any future peace agreement, and 800 in the large settlement blocs, which Israel will also attempt to maintain.

The objective of Secretary Kerry’s trip is to strike a ‘framework agreement’ between Israel and Palestine. His plan is to hold a series of meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestrina Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Nothing has been finalized on an agreement, as yet.

As a prelude to the talks prisoner releases were set up six months ago. Part three of the implementation is in question. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had explained that no Palestinian terrorists with Israeli ID cards will be released next time, contrary to Palestinian demands.

There is a difference of opinion in the facts of the release plan established six months ago which is creating some tension at the onset of this trip. At the beginning of the negotiations; Israel approved the release of 82 terrorists alone, but when Kerry heard that Abu Mazen demanded 104 prisoners, including Israeli Arabs, he didn’t correct Abu Mazen or note Netanyahu’s opposition to the move. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office stated in response that ‘at no point was there an agreement on the release of such prisoners.’

The core issues to be resolved in the upcoming meetings include the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem as a possible capital for the new state as well as Israel, Israel’s insistence that its identity as a Jewish state be recognized and the Palestinians’ demand that refugees should have the right to return to their former homes. Another issue will be determining security arrangements in the West Bank, including what role Israeli forces might have in the Jordan Valley, according to the N.Y. Times today.

There have been about 20 rounds of closed talks between the Israeilis and Palestinians for what a potential peace treaty might look like, but no final decision has been made.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly said time is not an ally, and the instability in the region now appears to be adding to his sense of urgency. Even tackling a framework will prove very challenging, some experts said.

‘What they are trying to do now is one of the hardest parts: getting both sides to reveal their bottom line on the core issues,’ said Robert M. Danin, a former State Department official who worked on Middle East issues. ‘It is both ambitious but necessary if you are going to have a real conflict-ending peace agreement.’

To read about previous Middle East efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials, please, see Author's list of suggested articles.

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