The U.S. security coordinator for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will arrive in Israel Tuesday night in preparation for a draft security plan between the Jewish state and the Palestinian National Authority, local daily Ha'aretz reported on its website.
General James Jones, appointed by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to draft a plan to create a stable security environment in the region, has also been tasked with trying to define the vital security interests that Israel would need any final-status agreement to address.
Jones will meet Wednesday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior Israeli officials, as well as their Palestinian counterparts, said Ha'aretz.
After that, he is expected to report back to Rice on whether he sees any chance of drafting a document defining Israel's security interests that would be acceptable to Israel and the United States.
However, Israeli security sources were quoted by Ha'aretz as saying that the chances of reaching a breakthrough on this issue before U.S. President George W. Bush ends his tenure seem slim.
According to the sources, the Americans hope to finalize a security document even if no corresponding Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic agreement is reached, but Israel believes it would be a mistake to make security concessions without a quid pro quo in the form of progress in the diplomatic negotiations.
Little tangible progress has been achieved since Israeli and Palestinian leaders officially resumed the long-stalled peace negotiations at a U.S.-hosted peace conference in Annapolis last November, when they also pledged to reach a comprehensive deal before Bush leaves office in January next year.