Livni and Kerry in Rome May 8, 2013370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a telephone
conversation Wednesday about Middle East peace and regional security issues,
according to the White House.
They spoke as US Secretary of State John
Kerry announced plans to return to Israel in two weeks as part of a renewed
American diplomatic initiative to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations, which have been largely frozen since December 2008.
the first conversation between the two leaders the White House has made public
since Israeli jets attacked Syrian targets twice in recent days.
leaders agreed to continue close cooperation on a range of security issues, the
White House said but did not provide further details.
Kerry is scheduled
to meet separately with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President
“We all believe that we’re working with a short time span.
We understand an imperative to try to have some sense of direction as rapidly as
we can,” Kerry said Wednesday in Rome before meeting with Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni told reporters after the meeting that all issues were dealt
in depth during their talk.
“We had quite a good conversation and
dialogue today with Secretary John Kerry,” Livni said. “The whole idea is to
relaunch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. We believe that
relaunching negotiations and achieving an agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians is in Israel’s interest.”
Livni said that Kerry’s
“enthusiasm” and “determination” were needed to break the “stalemate” and
Livni, who is in charge of negotiations, and who headed the
direct talks under former prime minister Ehud Olmert, said she hoped to see the
Palestinians in the negotiating room.
“The idea is to end the conflict in
accordance with the vision of two states for two people,” she said.
her second meeting with Kerry in less than a week. The two spoke in Washington,
DC, on Thursday. Special Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molho was present at both
meetings. Last week in DC, Kerry also spoke with PLO chief negotiator Saeb
While in Rome on Wednesday, Kerry also meet with Qatar’s Prime
Minister Hamad bin Jasim. He will also meet with Jordan’s Foreign Minister
Nasser Judeh on Thursday.
“We are working through a threshold of
questions, and we’re doing it with a seriousness and purpose that I think
Minister Livni would agree with me has not been present in a while,” Kerry
He added that his efforts were bolstered by the Arab League
decision last month to modify its 2002 peace plan.
The plan now allows
for “minor agreed border modifications, equal in size and quality, in the same
geographical area, and that do not harm Palestinian interests.”
added, “I believe that what you are doing here will create hope in the region,
because some of us lost hope. And this is something that we need, not just as a
vague idea, but something which is concrete.”
Abbas has insisted that he
won’t talk 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
insisted that talks be held without preconditions.
reports have persisted about Israeli initiatives to offer the Palestinians some
form of a partial freeze, even though Israel’s 10-month moratorium on new
housing starts from November 2009 to September 2010 failed to substantively
restart the negotiations.
Settlers reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu had
frozen tenders on public housing projects in four settlements: Efrat, Ariel,
Karnei Shomron and Givat Ze’ev.
Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Council of
Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, reached out to
Netanyahu in China seeking clarification. As of press time Wednesday night, he
had not heard back.