A further round of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was set to get underway on Thursday, with the arrival in the region of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry was expected to hold separate meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as he tries to bring the two sides closer to a "framework agreement" -- a list of guiding principles that would serve as the basis for extending the peace negotiations by another year.
As previously reported by Israel Hayom, Israeli plans to announce new construction tenders beyond the Green Line have been postponed by a week, until after Kerry's visit.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials are expressing pessimism about the peace talks, emphasizing that Abbas would not be willing to sign any guidelines or framework deal that do not adhere the national interests of the Palestinians. One Palestinian official said that Abbas had not been presented with a document of understandings. Rather, during their last meeting, Kerry presented Abbas with a draft of principles for a framework agreement. The U.S. informed the Palestinians, however, that a State Department team was still working to draw up a final proposal for a framework deal to be presented to both sides.
The American framework principles include a list of clauses addressing all core issues. It is expected that Kerry will alter, modify and omit certain clauses during his meetings with leaders from both sides during his current trip. If the meetings fail to produce a sufficient document, Kerry will depart and leave it to the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams to continue discussions.
The framework deal is expected to include a statement declaring the 1967 borders with land swaps as the basis for a Palestinian state. There would also be a statement in which the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Other provisions will likely refer to Israel's need to maintain security, the limiting of the right of return of Palestinian refugees to only the territory of a Palestinian state and the establishment of a Palestinian capital in the "Jerusalem area."
Meanwhile, students from Bar-Ilan University protested on Thursday outside the Jerusalem hotel where Kerry was staying, calling on the U.S. to free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Also on Thursday, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) and other members of the governing coalition toured communities in the Jordan Valley, an area he described as an integral part of Israel's "strategic depth." Israel must maintain a military and civilian presence in the region to prevent the spread of terrorism, Sa'ar said.
A poll released on Wednesday found that majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution, but each side remains suspicious of the other.
In the poll, 63 percent of Israeli respondents and 53 percent of Palestinians said they back a two-state solution. Support dropped to 54 percent and 46 percent, respectively, when respondents were asked about specifics such as the status of Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.
The Israeli poll, conducted by Hebrew University, questioned 601 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. The Palestinian poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, questioned 1,270 Palestinians and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.