Former Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a peace deal during a secret meeting orchestrated by then-Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryNikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump Khashoggi prompts Trump to reconsider human rights in foreign policy Biden: ‘Totally legitimate’ to question age if he runs in 2020 MORE last February that sought to move toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an AP report on Sunday. 

Netanyahu participated in this secret meeting on Feb. 21, 2016 in Aqaba, Jordan, with King Abdullah II of Jordan and President el-Sissi of Egypt, former U.S. officials told the AP. Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, first reported the meeting.

According to the AP, Kerry proposed renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in exchange for regional recognition that Israel is a Jewish state, which would’ve included peace with dozens of Muslim and Arab nations. 

Netanyahu, who has long sought for Israeli to be recognized regionally, turned down the offer because he would have to pull out from territories seized in the 1967 Mideast war, which are now occupied by Israelis. 

The arrangement reportedly also would have called for recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians and softer language on the "right to return" for Palestinian refugees who lost properties in what is now Israel.

The officials speaking to the AP saw this deal as a way of “updating” but not “superseding” the 2002 Arab initiative. The proposal was apparently positively received by Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, but Netanyahu would not commit to it.

Netanyahu declined the offer, citing lack of support in his hard-line nationalist government as the primary reason, the AP reports.

An official told the AP that it appeared Netanyahu would only offer vague steps to build confidence and was more interested in meeting Abbas and some Arab leaders.

While Netanyahu turned down the deal, it is not clear whether the Arab states would’ve accepted or declined the deal either. They “showed varying degrees of the enthusiasm,” with the Palestinians expressing the most concern about the concessions the deal would require.

Netanyahu did not comment on the newspaper report.

4The news comes shortly after Netanyahu — who had a cool relationship with President Obama — came to Washington to visit with President Trump and other top officials.