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Netanyahu held secret meeting with US, Arab leaders

Israeli media reported that PM Netanyahu met in secret with Jordan to discuss a US-brokered peace plan. The Israeli leader rejected the deal, saying his right-wing coalition would not approve ceding land Israel occupied.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Arab leaders in February 2016 to hear then-US Secretary of State John Kerry pitch a regional peace plan, Israeli media reported on Sunday. Although Netanyahu has refused to comment on the matter, anonymous officials from the Obama administration confirmed that the meeting took place.

According to Israel's "Haaretz" daily, Netanyahu met with Kerry, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in the Jordanian city of Aqaba. Kerry presented his plan, which called for Israel to cede land it has occupied since 1967 and allow the creation of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both countries. Part of what Israel would get in return would have been official recognition from Palestine and other regional powers as a "Jewish state."

The newspaper claimed that Netanyahu rejected the offer saying he would not be able to garner support in his right-wing ruling coalition to give up any land in the West Bank or Golan Heights. The move went against the prime minister's stated goal of involving Arab countries in resolving the conflict.

Opposition: Massive missed opportunity

Many observers, including Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, bemoaned the "magnitude of the missed opportunity," to create lasting peace.

Although Netanyahu had a somewhat tense relationship with former US President Obama, who towards the end of his second term refused to offer its supports for the expansion of Israeli settlements, he has been enthusiastic in support of his Obama's successor, Donald Trump.  Indeed, on a recent visit to the White House, Netanyahu thanked Trump for stepping back from US support for a two-state solution and hailed him for imposing sanctions on Iran.

es/sms (AP, AFP)

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