US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Wednesday that the two-state solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be dead within two years.
believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting,” Kerry told the US
House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. “I think we have some period
of time, a year, a year-and-a-half, or two years or it’s over.”
secretary of state’s comments come amid a renewed US drive to rekindle direct
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been largely frozen
since late 2008.
US President Barack Obama – along with Kerry – visited
Israel last month to speak with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Kerry returned
again last week for further meetings, and promised to come back
He is scheduled to unveil a plan soon to improve the Palestinian
economy in hopes that it would help the Palestinians return to the
Before leaving for London on Tuesday night for the funeral of
former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu said, “We are committed to our aspiration for peace, a peace that will
be based on the principle of two states for two peoples, a Jewish state
alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state.”
“But in order for the peace
to last, it must be anchored in security,” he continued.
“The State of
Israel must be able to defend itself by itself; its security will be a main
component of any future peace agreement.”
Netanyahu discussed the frozen
peace talks along with the dangers of a nuclear Iran and Syria’s civil war in
meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister
David Cameron on Wednesday in London.
The meetings were private and no
statements were issued afterward.
Palestinians have insisted they will
not hold direct negotiations with Israel unless it halts West Bank settlement
activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel has refused to
cede to that request and has urged the Palestinians to come to the table without
Kerry is now seeking a way to break a four-year deadlock
over the issue.
The secretary of state told the House Foreign Affairs
Committee that because he sees only a two-year window, “there is an urgency to
this in my mind, and I intend, on behalf of the president’s instructions, to
honor that urgency and see what we can do to move forward.”
explained that the mistrust on both sides made it
“[Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas deep down
is not convinced – and that may be a light word for it – that Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Israel are ever going to give them a state,” he said.
on the other side, Israel is not convinced that the Palestinians and others are
ever going to give them the security that they need.”
In response to
Kerry’s words, an Israeli official noted that it was the Palestinians who wasted
the last four years by refusing to negotiate.
But the bulk of Netanyahu’s
trip dealt with Syria and Iran, particularly in light of the possibility that
the European Union might lift its arms embargo against Syria at the end of the
month. The UK is among those European countries that have spoken of sending arms
to the Syrian opposition forces.
Without taking a strong stand against
the idea, Israel has urged caution on arming the rebels, noting that one has to
be more specific with regard to which of the rebel groups one would ship the
arms and which weapons would be sent to them.
Next week, EU governments
are expected to ease an embargo on Syrian oil to allow for purchases of crude
from the opposition in an effort to tilt the balance of the conflict against
President Bashar Assad.
At a meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers are
also expected to agree to lift restrictions on selling equipment for the oil industry to the opposition and
investing in the state’s oil sector, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.
move is part of a broader EU undertaking to support the Syrian rebels, waging a
two-year-old uprising against Assad in which an estimated 70,000 people have
died and the conflict is broadly stalemated.
It aims to give the
insurgents much-needed cash for infrastructure repairs and to build up local
governance, and, possibly, to fund purchases of arms. But conditions would apply
to ensure that no business is done with supporters of Assad.
purchases will be allowed when an EU government authorizes them after
consultations with the [opposition] National Coalition,” an EU diplomat told
The lifting of oil sanctions may bolster the credibility of the
Syrian National Coalition – an umbrella organization of the opposition – among
Syrians opposing Assad.
Reuters contributed to this report.