TEL AVIV – Secretary of State John Kerry quietly presented a U.S. plan for eastern Jerusalem that calls for an international administrative mandate to control holy sites in the area, according to informed Palestinian and Israeli diplomatic sources.
The exact composition of the international mandate is up for discussion, the sources said, but Kerry’s plan recommended a coalition that includes the Vatican, together with a group of Muslim countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The international arrangement is being proposed as a temporary solution for about two to three years while security arrangements in Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians are finalized, said the sources.
Israel, the sources said, was not receptive to the particulars of Kerry’s plan, especially the concept of Turkish participation in Jerusalem. Kerry told the Israelis he would hold talks with the Kingdom of Jordan about its playing a leading role in the proposal in the place of Turkey, the sources added.
Kerry was in Jerusalem on Friday as part of an Obama administration effort to reach a deal for a Palestinian state by April, a timeline that is still on track, Kerry told reporters.
“We are working on an approach that both guarantees Israel’s security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty,” Kerry added.
According to the Israeli and Palestinian diplomatic sources speaking to WND, Kerry’s trip this time around focused specifically on the particulars of security arrangements for the strategic Jordan Valley following a deal.
In October, WND exclusively reported Kerry was strongly urging Israel to give up the Jordan Valley in closed-door talks with the Palestinian Authority.
The current round of U.S.-brokered talks is attempting to hash out the details of a plan for the valley.
The Jordan Valley cuts through the heart of Israel. It runs from the Tiberias River in the north to the Dead Sea in the center to the city of Aqaba at the south of the country, stretching through the biblical Arabah desert.
The U.S. proposal calls for international forces to maintain security control along with unarmed Palestinian police forces, a senior Palestinian Authority negotiator told WND in October. Israel will retain security posts in some strategic areas of the Jordan Valley, according to the U.S. plan.
Previous talks incorporated an element of Jordanian authority in the Jordan Valley, but the Kingdom of Jordan is wary of participating in a future Palestinian state, the negotiator said.
The Palestinian negotiator pointed to the insurgency in Syria and changes of leadership in Egypt as reasons for Jordanian reluctance to assume any security control over Palestinian areas.