Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down a regional peace initiative last year that was brokered by then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, former American officials confirmed Sunday, in apparent contradiction to Netanyahu's stated goal of involving regional Arab powers in resolving Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu took part in a secret summit that Kerry organized in the southern Jordanian port city of Aqaba last February and included Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. The secret meeting was first reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz1
Two former top aides to Kerry confirmed that the meeting took place secretly on Feb. 21, 2016. According to the officials, Kerry tried to sweeten the 15-year-old "Arab Peace Initiative," a Saudi-led plan that offered Israel peace with dozens of Arab and Muslim nations in return for a pullout from territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war to make way for an independent Palestine.
Among the proposed changes were Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians, and softened language on the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to lost properties in what is now Israel, the former officials said. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were still not authorized to discuss the secret meeting publicly, said the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders reacted positively to the proposal, while Netanyahu refused to commit to anything beyond meetings with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
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