US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry both said that they have not given up on the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians even as Fatah moves forward with plans to unite itself with Hamas.
“I have not yet given up on the possibility that both Israelis and Palestinians can see their self-interest in a peace dealt hat would provide Israel security that’s recognized by its neighbors and make sure that Palestinians have a state of their own,” Obama said in an interview he gave to NPR.
Since the US led peace talks fell apart at the end of April, speculation has been high that America has pulled back and has refocused its energies elsewhere.
Obama did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a major peace address he delivered on Wednesday at Annapolis.
But on Thursday, both he and Kerry spoke of their hope that peace could still be achieved.
“I don’t believe that in the Middle East either party can afford to simply maintain the status quo and believe that there’s a road to greater stability and to peace without re-engaging and without coming back at some point in time to the negotiating process,” Kerry said in an interview he gave to PBS.
Both Obama and Kerry spoke on the same day that PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to form and head a Palestinian unity government. It’s a move that strengthens the possibility that the two groups might really reconcile for the first time since Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007.
Still, differences between Fatah and Hamas led to the postponement on Thursday of the anticipated announcement that the new government had actually been formed.
Israel suspended talks with the Palestinians when the Fatah-Hamas unity deal was announced and refused to negotiate with Hamas, which it calls a terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction.
A Palestinian source in Ramallah said the new unity government could be announced next week.
Kerry said that Abbas was prepared to return to the negotiating table if certain conditions were met, but he did not specify what those conditions were.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel are waiting to see what happens with the Hamas reconciliation, with the announcement of a new government, with the question of what that new government may or may not choose to do. That’s an appropriate thing to be doing. We’re all waiting to see what happens,” Kerry said.
He explained that he did not think the status quo was sustainable. “So eventually, there’ll have to be some discussion about some management of that process. Whether it’s a full-blown peace process or whether it’s individual steps or not,” Kerry said.
He explained that Israel would be more secure if a peace deal is concluded with the Palestinians. Similarly, he said, “Palestinian rights and ability to have a state can only come through some kind of political process.”
“So my job is to push it forward. My job is to try to find the optimism and the possibilities, not to give up, and I refuse to give up. I think that we have to find the way ahead. This hasn’t gone away in 40, 50 years, and it’s not going to suddenly just sort of solve itself by itself. That’s our job is to try to push the process forward,” he said.