The time has come for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take difficult steps in
pursuit of peace, US Secretary of State John Kerry said as he spoke with
reporters in Ben-Gurion Airport Friday at the end of a two-day visit.
are reaching the time where the leaders need to make hard decisions,” said
Kerry, who has held an intense round of talks over the last two months in hopes
of rekindling the frozen peace process.
Kerry has visited Israel and the
Palestinian territories three times since March, and has held additional
meetings with local and regional politicians in the United States and
President Shimon Peres struck a note of optimism for Kerry’s
efforts when he told British Foreign Minister William Hague that “I see that
quietly things are moving.”
But Kerry’s statements at the airport seemed
more skeptical. He said progress was dependent on the choices Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must now
Kerry explained that he would speak more about the issue at the
World Economic Forum in Jordan on Sunday, but that after that he would move onto
“I have been here a number of times, both sides know what
the choices are, both sides know what is needed to move forward, and it time for
the governments to make their decisions,” Kerry said.
“I have made clear
in my discussions that the parties should be focused on making progress toward
the direct negotiations,” Kerry said.
“Ultimately, ending this conflict
will take leadership on both sides,” he said.
Kerry reiterated the
American definition of the two-state solution, based on the pre-1967 line, which
includes land-swaps to take into account facts on the ground.
In the end,
he said, it is the Israelis and Palestinians who will define the terms of the
final status agreement.
But there is only one way to get there and that
is through direct negotiations, he said, adding that he has been very clear
about the need for progress on this score.
It is a mistake, he said, to
leave the conflict unresolved or to assume that the status quo is
“Each side needs to work to build trust and each side needs
to refrain from any provocative theatrics or actions that take us backwards,” he
“The longer it takes to bring about a peaceful end to the conflict,
the more difficult it will be to do so,” he said.
“It is only through
direct negotiators that the Israelis and the Palestinians can address the
permanent status issues,” Kerry said.
He urged Israel to voluntarily halt
settlement activity, but added that the demand for such a freeze as a
precondition to direct talks was not helpful.
“We are trying to get to
talks without preconditions,” said Kerry. “We do not want to get stuck in a
place where we are arguing about a particular substantive issue that is part of
a final settlement, and that argument takes you so long, that you never get to
the negotiations that bring about the final settlement,” Kerry said.
hope is that everyone will stay focused on the prize, focused on the goal, that
is to negotiate in full faith on the broad basis that ends the anxiety and
tension over some of these issues because you have actually solved them by
reaching a settlement on the broader components of the conflict itself,” Kerry
On Thursday, Kerry held a twohour meeting with Netanyahu. They were
joined by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval
Steinitz, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, special envoy Yitzhak Molho and
military secretary Eyal Zamir.
On Friday morning, Kerry invited Netanyahu
to join him for breakfast at his Jerusalem hotel. They were joined by Molho and
National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror.
The US secretary of state also
met with Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday, and is likely to meet with him again on
the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan.
Kerry said that the
meetings he held with Israeli and Palestinian leaders were productive. It was
clear to him, he said, that both the Israeli and Palestinian people wanted
An Israeli official said that the talks between Kerry and
Netanyahu were useful and productive.
“The prime minister has welcomed
his efforts to try and bring about the resumption of direct talks,” the official
“We are ready and we remain ready to start those peace talks,” the
Palestinians, however, continued to insist on Thursday
that they would not talk with Israel until it had halted West Bank settlement
activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel has refused to
cede to that request, insisting that talks should be held without
Talks have been largely frozen since December 2008.