During the last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the media that Secretary of State John Kerry had heard things from Netanyahu “perhaps no one else has heard.” Today, we may finally know what he meant. Journalist Nahum Barnea has published a document outlining a back-channel peace proposal hammered out by Netanyahu’s chief negotiator, which contains many concessions that the Likud leader has repeatedly said he would never make–including recognition of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and a return to the 1967 borders.
The existence of this proposal, and the back-channel which produced it, has been strongly suspected for some time based on prior investigative reporting, most notably by Amir Tibon in The New Republic. But this is the first time the actual contents have been published.
According to Barnea, the August 2013 framework, negotiated between Netanyahu envoy Yitzhak Molho and Palestinian academic and Abbas confidant Hussein Agha, called for:
• An Israeli return to the 1967 borders with land swaps for some settlements blocs
• The evacuation of some settlements, with others remaining under Palestinian sovereignty
• A carefully worded recognition of Palestinian claims in East Jerusalem
• The return of a limited number of Palestinian refugees to Israel on an individual basis
Needless to say, these positions are not in keeping with Netanyahu’s publicly professed stances. His office has denied that such a proposal was ever written down, and told Barnea that the back-channel negotiations produced many drafts to which Netanyahu would have appended reservations.
The timing of the draft proposal’s publication is no accident. With elections just two weeks away, the story may hurt Netanyahu with those in his right-wing base who don’t trust him to stand firm in the face of international pressure, and could boost his hawkish rival Naftali Bennett.