US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make
the necessary compromises to allow the resumption of direct talks, as he visited
both Jerusalem and Ramallah on Thursday.
“Our hope is that the leaders in
both Israel and the Palestinian Authority will find a way to compromise,” Kerry
told President Shimon Peres.
The two spoke in the evening after a long
day of back-to-back meetings that included talks with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
It is likely
that Kerry will meet Netanyahu again on Friday before departing for
Kerry is expected to meet Abbas again in Jordan on Sunday, on
the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
Peres will attend the forum,
where he is scheduled to deliver a public address. Jordan’s King Abdullah II
will also be at the forum.
Peres told Kerry, “If you succeed, it will be
our success. If you will miss, we shall miss. We shall stand on your side all
the way. You have a mission of peace, which concerns all of us.”
responded, “It’s not me, Mr. President. It’s really a question of whether
Israel and the Palestinians make the choices.”
“This moment is a really
critical one for the region and particularly for Israel, for Palestine and for
Jordan. I think there is an opportunity, but for many reasons it is not on the
tip of everyone’s tongue,” Kerry said. “People in Israel aren’t waking up every
day and wondering if tomorrow there’ll be peace, because there is a sense of
security and a sense of accomplishment and a sense of prosperity.”
spite of the optimism created by the flurry of Kerry’s activities, Palestinians
publicly said they were not willing to compromise on their key demands from
Abbas on Thursday reiterated his demand for a full cessation of
settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners before
returning to the negotiating table with Israel.
He raised with Kerry the
issues of continued construction in settlements, Israeli “assaults” on
Jerusalem, settler assaults and the continued incarceration of Palestinians in
Israel, according to a statement issued by the PA president’s
Upon his arrival in Ramallah, Kerry first held talks with Abbas
and PLO officials Saeb Erekat, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Nabil Abu Rudaineh. Later,
Kerry held a closed one-hour meeting with Abbas.
Following the meeting,
Kerry, in an unprecedented move, toured the cities of Ramallah and El-Bireh,
where he ate shwarma and Palestinian pastries.
“Man that is good,” Kerry
said after biting into his shwarma, a sandwich filled with slices of meat
roasted on a rotating spit, wrapped in pita and served with tomatoes, tahini,
humous and pickled vegetables.
As Kerry arrived in Ramallah, dozens of
Palestinians staged a protest outside Abbas’s office, condemning Washington’s
“bias” in favor of Israel.
The protesters also condemned US military
support for Israel. Some carried placards denouncing US “policies that back the
occupation and its crimes.” One placard, with Kerry’s portrait, read: “Kerry, we
don’t trust you and America.”
Route 60 was closed in the early and late
afternoon to allow Kerry to travel to the Abbas meeting.
for Ramallah, Kerry met in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon, special envoy Yitzhak Molho and Military Secretary Eyal
The meeting lasted two hours and included some time in which
Netanyahu and Kerry spoke alone.
Livni said after the meeting, “The
effort to jump-start the negotiations shouldn’t just fall on the US, but also on
the two sides,” she said. “It is easy to fall into the blame game. I’m
suggesting that everyone, including the Palestinians, refrain from doing that
“The objective is to restart the negotiations and to end the
conflict. I hope the Palestinians understand this,” Livni said. “The next days
and weeks are critical. It is important to stay focused.”
into his meeting with Netanyahu this morning, Kerry said, “I know this region
well enough to know that there is skepticism. In some quarters there is
cynicism, and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of
disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but
detailed and tenacious, we can lay out a path ahead that can conceivably
surprise people, but certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace,” he
The two men smiled and shook hands as they stood next to an
American and Israeli flag in Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office.
what we want to do is to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians,” the
prime minister said.
“You’ve been working at it a great
deal. We’ve been working at it together. It’s something I want, it’s
something you want. It’s something I hope the Palestinians want as well, and we
ought to be successful for a simple reason. When there’s a will, we’ll find a
Kerry thanked Netanyahu for his efforts on behalf of restarting the
peace process and said he had been working with him, along with Livni.
am appreciative that the prime minister has really put personal energy into
helping us to define some of the work that we need to do to figure out the way
forward,” Kerry said.
Netanyahu then met with former French president
Nicholas Sarkozy and then separately with British Foreign Minister William Hague
who are visiting Israel.
“We urge all parties to move the process forward
and to really give the bold and decisive leadership that will allow success to
happen and avoid steps that undermine it,” Hague said before his meeting with
Kerry is expected to roll out a framework for returning to the
negotiations in early June, and since taking office has been trying to get the
various sides to take steps that would create an environment more conducive to
These steps include what is widely believed to be a de facto, but
unstated, temporary freeze on construction beyond the Green Line, including in
east Jerusalem; a Palestinian commitment to temporarily avoid seeking upgrades
in international forums or taking Israel to the International Criminal Court;
and the Arab League delegation’s recent declaration that it would accept an
Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that included a “mild” land swap.