Peace plan would allow 75 percent of Jewish settlers to remain in West Bank, envoy says

Roughly three-quarters of Jewish settlers in the West Bank would be included in redrawn Israeli borders envisioned under U.S.-backed peace negotiations, the lead U.S. envoy told American Jewish leaders on Thursday.

The settlement estimate was among details of a closely held plan to frame a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians this year, a participant in the conversation between Jewish leaders and U.S. envoy Martin Indyk said.

The participant and another person familiar with the conversation spoke on the condition of anonymity because neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leaders have yet agreed to the U.S. proposals for final talks.

Indyk also told the group that a final peace treaty could provide for compensation to Jews forced out of Arab countries after the founding of Israel in 1948. That would give descendants of those refugees living in Israel a potential financial stake in a deal long assumed to also provide compensation for Arabs who left land in what is now Israel.

Indyk’s willingness to provide such details to strong U.S. advocates for Israel appears to be part of an effort to rally external support for the effort led by Secretary of State John F. Kerry.

The goal is what Kerry calls a framework for a peace treaty. Indyk told the group he hopes to win agreement from both sides within a few weeks.

Peace talks would then continue under the terms laid out in the framework through the rest of this year. Kerry had originally set an April deadline for a deal.

The framework will be made public if both sides agree to it, Indyk told the group. Both sides could register “reservations” about some terms, meaning that while they agree to the overall architecture for talks on sensitive issues such as the future of Jerusalem, they are not necessarily agreeing now to a particular outcome of the talks.

About 350,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements strung along the long West Bank border. A peace treaty would adjust the lines to accommodate most settlers — with other land swapped to the Palestinians for a new independent state.

Some of the largest settlement blocs — essentially small cities — have long been assumed to be permanently Israeli. But Indyk’s estimate that 75 to 80 percent of settlers would remain inside Israeli lines suggests that many smaller settlements would also be included.

It is not clear how specific the framework document will be about settlements, which are one of the most divisive issues in a long list of difficult questions that any peace treaty would have to resolve.

“During an off-the-record briefing with Jewish leaders, Ambassador Indyk described the well-known United States position” that a future Palestine should be based on Mideast lines as they existed before the 1967 wars, plus mutually agreed swaps, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “Given this is an ongoing process and these decisions have not yet been made, at no point did Ambassador Indyk make a prediction of the final contents of a framework.”

Anne Gearan is The Washington Post's diplomatic correspondent.
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