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A U.S.-brokered peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians would include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the Israeli daily Maariv reported — a condition likely to be rejected by Palestinians.
The United States is trying to broker a "framework" of general guidelines that would address core issues such as borders, security, the future of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, tasked with developing the framework for talks scheduled to end in April, included stipulations in the final document that would require Palestinians to recognize that Israel is a state for Jewish people alone, the leaked report said.
This would dash Palestinian hopes of gaining the "right of return" for 5 million refugees and their families who were displaced from their land during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
That right is protected by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for the return of Palestinian refugees and their compensation at the earliest practical date.
The condition of a Jewish state would include reciprocity, requiring Israel to recognize Palestine as a state for Palestinians, a U.S. source told Maariv.
That reciprocity is an ominous one for non-Jewish Palestinian citizens living in Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the population.
Some analysts say the demand for recognition as a Jewish state was meant to be an obstacle, as Israeli leadership is aware that Palestinians would reject that condition.
"They know the Palestinians would not be able to accept that," Yusef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, a Washington think-tank that raises funds for Palestinians, told Al Jazeera. "It's an effort to torpedo any progress on the creation of a Palestinian state."
Israel's defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, admitted to reporters in early January that there were major sticking points in negotiations, but reaffirmed Israel's commitment to the talks.
"It is clear there are big gaps — they are not new — but it is definitely in our interest to continue the talks," he said in broadcast remarks, without defining the differences.
Threat of armed resistance
Borders would be a secondary issue in the framework. The sources cited by Maariv said final negotiations would be drawn along the 1967 borders, but with land swaps “taking into account the demographic changes that have taken place in recent decades,” the Israeli daily said.
Israel hopes to hold onto large swaths of land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where it has large settlement populations. More than half a million Israeli settlers live in the occupied territories in settlements seen as illegal under international law.
Israeli settlements have long been a sticking point in negotiations, and the U.S. and U.N. have condemned recent construction expanding those settlements.
Israel has also demanded the right to station soldiers in the Jordan Valley — located between the West Bank and Jordan — for 10 years as part of any final agreement, for security reasons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington in March. The framework and peace talks with the Palestinians will be at the top of the meeting’s agenda.
If peace talks fail, armed conflict may ensue, an official in the Palestinian Authority, Jibril Rajoub, told TIME on Tuesday.
“Now we are engaged in negotiations. We hope this will lead us to our national goals,” said Rajoub. “But if talks fail or collapse, the Israelis will not keep behaving as the bully of the neighborhood while enjoying security and stability, expanding settlements and humiliating Palestinians. Resistance will be an option, including armed resistance, within the [occupied] Territories against the occupation."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to rule out violence, and has had the Palestinian Authority work with Israeli security to stop any attacks.
Many Palestinians believe they are more likely to achieve statehood through armed resistance than negotiations, according to a recent poll. About half of the respondents said they are willing to give negotiations a chance, but about 70 percent are pessimistic about the chances for success.
More than three-quarters of Palestinians reject any permanent agreement that includes a 10-year transitional phase during which the Israeli army maintains a presence in the Jordan Valley. Most of the public supports a two-state solution, however, and believes that if Abbas did reach an agreement with Netanyahu, the public would vote in favor.