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Barack Obama Administration: Principles for Middle East Peace

(December 29, 2016)

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 29, 2016

In his December 28, 2016 Remarks on Middle East Peace, Secretary of State John Kerry presented the Administration’s view on the broad consensus that has emerged regarding principles for a final status agreement that could meet the needs of both sides, reflecting the Secretary’s efforts and discussions with the parties and key stakeholders over the past four years.

These principles were offered not to prejudge or impose an outcome, but to provide a possible basis for serious negotiations when the parties are ready.

Principle 1: Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.

Resolution 242, which has been enshrined in international law for 50 years, provides for the withdrawal of Israel from territories it occupied in 1967 in return for peace with its neighbors and secure and recognized borders. It has long been accepted by both sides, and it remains the basis for an agreement today.

The Arab League has previously agreed, following the Secretary’s engagement, that the reference in the Arab Peace Initiative to 1967 lines now includes the concept of land swaps, which the Palestinians have acknowledged. This is necessary to reflect practical realities on the ground, and mutually agreed equivalent swaps will ensure that the agreement is fair to both sides.

There is also broad recognition of Israel’s need to ensure that the borders are secure and defensible, and that the territory of Palestine is viable and contiguous. There is also a clear consensus that no changes by Israel to the 1967 lines will be recognized by the international community unless agreed to by both sides.

Principle 2: Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.

This has been the foundational principle of the two-state solution from the beginning: Creating a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people, where each can achieve their national aspirations. Resolution 181 is incorporated into the foundational documents of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the U.S. position for years, and many others have expressed that they are prepared to accept it as well, provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.

There are some 1.7 million Arab citizens who call Israel their home and must now and always be able to live as equal citizens. That is why it is so important that in recognizing each other’s homeland – Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people – both sides reaffirm their commitment to upholding full equal rights for all of their respective citizens.

Principle 3: Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.

As part of a comprehensive resolution, the Palestinian refugees must be provided with compensation, their suffering must be acknowledged, and there will need to be options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance, including in raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met, and many have expressed a willingness to contribute to that effort. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.

Principle 4: Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution must meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible, and the established status quo maintained. Most acknowledge that Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967. At the same time, there is broad recognition that there will be no peace agreement without reconciling the basic aspirations of both sides to have capitals there.

Principle 5: Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.

Security is the fundamental issue for Israel. Everyone understands that no Israeli Government can ever accept an agreement that does not satisfy its security needs or risks creating an enduring security threat like Gaza in the West Bank. Israel must be able to defend itself effectively, including against terrorism and other regional threats. There is a real willingness by Egypt, Jordan, and others to work together with Israel on meeting key security challenges. The United States believes that those collective efforts, including close coordination on border security, intelligence-sharing, and joint operations, can play a critical role in securing the peace.

Fully ending the occupation is the fundamental issue for the Palestinians: They need to know that the military occupation will really end after an agreed transitional process, and that they can live in freedom and dignity in a sovereign state while providing security for their population even without a military of their own. This is widely accepted as well.

Principle 6: End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative.

It is essential for both sides that the final status agreement resolves all the outstanding issues and finally brings closure to this conflict, so they can move ahead to a new era of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. For Israel, this must also bring broader peace with its Arab neighbors. That is the fundamental promise of the Arab Peace Initiative, which key Arab leaders have affirmed.

Source: U.S. State Department