Kerry urges Netanyahu, Abbas to compromise

PM, Livni, Peres, Abbas meet with US secretary of state who is expected to roll out framework for returning to talks in early June.

Peres and Kerry May 2013 cute 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
Peres and Kerry May 2013 cute 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
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 Ethiopia.
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.”
Kerry 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.”
But in 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 Israel.
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 office.
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.
Before leaving 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 Zamir.
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 now.
“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.”
Before heading 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 said.
The two men smiled and shook hands as they stood next to an American and Israeli flag in Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office.
“Above all, 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 way.”
Kerry thanked Netanyahu for his efforts on behalf of restarting the peace process and said he had been working with him, along with Livni.
“I 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 Netanyahu.
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 talks.
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.