US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday told an annual conference of international business and political leaders that a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would include the complete removal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territory.
"Palestinians need to know that at the end of the day their territory will be free of Israeli troops – that occupation ends," Kerry said in a speech at the global economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. But, he added, that day would not come until Israel was certain that the territory from which they withdrew would not be used as a launch pad for attacks on its citizens.
"The Israelis rightfully will not withdraw until they know the West Bank will not become another Gaza," the secretary of state clarified.
There had been some tensions between Israel and the US over the security plans included in the current US-driven negotiations. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, a former head of the IDF , caused controversy earlier this month when he dismissed Kerry as "obsessive" and his security provisions as "not worth the paper they're written on."
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Kerry peppered his speech with assurances that Israel's security was paramount to the success of the negotiations. "Israel has to be strong to make peace, but we also believe that peace will make Israel stronger."
And he reiterated: "There cannot be peace unless Israeli security needs are met."
The secretary of state expressed great hope that the current round of negotiations would bear long sought-after fruits, but warned both parties of the high costs of peace and the high risks of failing in this endeavor.
Now or neverThe Palestinians, he said, must understand that the current round of talks could be their last chance at a negotiated resolution for the foreseeable future.
"If (the Palestinians) fail to achieve statehood now, there is no guarantee they will any time soon." He added: "If talks fail, Palestinians will be no closer to being masters of their own fate, and no closer to resolving their refugee crisis."
After delivering those stern warnings, Kerry pivoted to positive arguments for peace: "Imagine this time next year if Palestinian businessman and government leaders from the state of Palestine are able to pitch the world's largest investors (at Davos)."
Kerry reassured the Israeli public as well of the benefits of peace: "For Israel, the benefits of peace are enormous and perhaps even more significant."
He expressed hope that the 20 Arab states which currently refuse to recognize and trade with Israel will change their policy once they see concrete steps made towards a final-status agreement.
He told both sides of the conflict: "It is past time that the people of this region are known for what they create, not the conflict they perpetuate."
Kerry also set out to assuage fears of an American withdrawal from involvement in the Middle East.
He concluded with a wide assurance to all states in the region that, despite Obama's public pivot to Asia, the United States was not considering a change in its hands-on approach to the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"President Obama and his administration will remain engaged in the long-run. We dare not – and I assure you – we will not miss this moment," he said.
Earlier on Friday Kerry met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for about 90 minutes on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to push a framework for a peace deal with the Palestinians.