No framework for peace yet as Kerry leaves Mideast

Israel published plans to build nearly 300 West Bank apartments as Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a visit to the Middle East without an official framework agreement between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

Kerry left Israel for the United States on Jan. 6 after pressing U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for several days.

The framework agreement reportedly will deal with all core issues — borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem and mutual recognition, among others.

On Jan. 5, building plans were published for 272 housing units in two West Bank settlements, Ofra and Karnei Shomron, the Associated Press reported, citing an Israeli defense official. The plans had been approved in October.

With the publishing of the plans, building could begin in the coming weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Knesset members from his Likud party Jan. 5 that he would oppose withdrawal from settlements such as Hebron and Beit El, which are not part of major settlement blocs but are “important to the Jewish people,” according to the Jerusalem Post. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said his Jewish Home Party will not accept an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 lines.

“No more word games: the 1967 lines mean dividing Jerusalem and giving up the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Old City. In what way will our history remember a leader that agrees to give up Jerusalem? We won’t sit in such a government,” Bennett said Jan. 6 during a speech in Tel Aviv at the Institute for National Security Studies, Ynet reported. — jta