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Israel's Netanyahu draws line in the sand on Jordan Valley settlements

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Michael Euler

(Read caption) Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos today.

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A few weeks ago the dismissive comments of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that Secretary of State John Kerry's zealous pursuit of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians amounted to an "incomprehensible obsession" and "messianic feeling" caused a bit of a kerfuffle. Yes, many senior Israeli officials have grown tired of humoring Mr. Kerry and are not much interested in the kinds of concessions that would be necessary to make a peace deal and creation of a Palestinian state possible. But it's generally considered bad form to needlessly antagonize the Americans.

Yet more evidence that the process jalopy is destined to keep spinning its wheels comes today by way of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking to reporters in Davos shortly after meeting with Kerry, Mr. Netanyahu was asked about the fate of Israeli settlements in the West Bank half of the Jordan Valley in a possible peace deal. Interest in the question has been stirred by reports that Kerry has been hoping for Jordan Valley concessions

The prime minister was blunt. "I have said it before and I repeat it today: I'm not going to evict a single community, I am not going to uproot any Israeli from his home.” He also added that the US side has not proposed anything resembling a possible peace agreement. "The Americans are talking about a suggestion for a framework for negotiations," he said. .

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Twenty years after Oslo one would hope that the "suggestion for a framework for negotiations" stage - which is the easy part - would be over. That it isn't tells you most of what you need to know.

The Ma'an Development Center, a Palestinian group, says there are 11,679 Israeli settlers and roughly 58,000 Palestinians in the valley. As the settlement enterprise goes (there are over 400,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank) the valley is small potatoes. But the Netanyahu government appears feels that controlling the valley - which borders the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - is vital to national security.


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