New US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to discuss the diplomatic process, in an early sign he intends to make this a top priority on his agenda.
In both conversations he commended Netanyahu’s decision last week to release some NIS 400 million in tax revenues to the PA and praised it as a positive step.
The calls followed Kerry’s phone conversation Saturday with President Shimon Peres, who said the election results in Israel provided new opportunities in the diplomatic process.
Kerry is expected to visit the region on his first trip abroad in the middle of the month.
A US State Department communiqué said that Netanyahu updated Kerry on his efforts to put together a new government.
The statement also said Kerry “underscored his personal commitment and that of President [Barack] Obama to support Israel’s security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Kerry and Netanyahu also spoke about Iran and Syria, and – according to the statement – pledged to work closely together during Kerry’s tenure.
Kerry spoke to Abbas of his “personal commitment and hope for continued efforts to pursue peace,” and pledged to continue efforts with Congress to release budget support for the PA.
According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, Kerry conferred with Abbas about the necessity of holding meetings in the near future with the ultimate aim of restarting the peace process.
Citing PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Wafa reported that Kerry assured the PA head that Obama “cares about the peace process” and is eager restart the stalled talks.
Last week, Kerry suggested that time was running out for a two-state solution with Israel living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state, and said such an eventuality would be “disastrous.”