Report: Netanyahu turned down regional diplomatic initiative

Could Kerry’s proposal have been a historic chance to bring peace to the Middle East?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly turned down a regional peace initiative last year that was brokered by then-American Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel’s Haaretz reported Sunday that Netanyahu took part in a secret summit organized by Kerry in the southern Jordanian port city of Aqaba last February, which included Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

The Palestinians, to whom the initiative pertained, were not present.

According to the report, which cited anonymous Obama administration officials, Kerry proposed regional recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — a key Israel demand — alongside a renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries.

Netanyahu reportedly rejected the offer, saying he would not be able to garner enough support for it in his coalition government.

The initiative was also reportedly the basis of talks with opposition leader Isaac Herzog to join the government, a plan that unraveled when Netanyahu chose to bring in Avigdor Liberman instead and appoint him defense minister.

Herzog tweeted Sunday that “history will definitely judge the magnitude of the opportunity as well as the magnitude of the missed opportunity.” The opposition leader claims that the plan entailed a regional understanding on a grand scale that could have had far-reaching implications.

Netanyahu himself did not directly address the report at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. He did say, however, that “we also see the possibility of trying to provide a basis for the growing regional interests that are forming between Israel, the US and countries of the region both to rebuff Iran and to develop other opportunities and normalization.”

Speaking later at his Likud faction meeting, he confirmed the report, saying that he had initiated the secret summit.

By: World Israel News Staff
AP contributed to this report.