Kerry to return this week for push on talks

US Secretary of State wants to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, will meet with Livni, Palestinian leadership separately.

Livni and Kerry in Rome May 8, 2013370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Livni and Kerry in Rome May 8, 2013370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected in Israel on Thursday to resume his efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Up until now the efforts have concentrated on trying to create a better environment, and toward this end there have been numerous reports both of an Israeli construction slow down beyond the Green Line, including in Jerusalem, and a Palestinian agreement to refrain from further unilateral moves for a few months in international organizations to promote Palestinian statehood.
In addition, an Arab League delegation said in Washington last month after meeting with Kerry that the Arab League would accept an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that did not include a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines, but would include “mild” land swaps.
Kerry is expected to announce in early June a framework for his proposal to restart the Israel-Palestinian negotiations. The proposal is expected to have economic, security and political components, and is likely to be the focus of his talks here and in Ramallah with the Palestinian leadership.
Kerry is expected to meet during his visit with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians, and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Livni told Army Radio on Saturday that Kerry is determined to reignite the peace process.
“When the US wants to bring about negotiations, it is certainly a positive thing because this represents our interests,” she said. “My encounters with Kerry show that he has an honest belief that it is possible to solve the conflict, and that a solution is an interest for the Israelis, Americans and Palestinians.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who met with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Friday and with Palestinian Authority leaders in Ramallah on Saturday, said Berlin “fully supports” the recent US initiative to restart direct talks.
“We believe that the Middle East peace process and the work on a two-state solution should be revived now and we will do what we can to support the security and a peaceful and sustainable development for Israel and the whole region,” he saidprior to meeting Netanyahu.
Later, after meeting President Shimon Peres, Westerwelle said, “We should do everything to support the John Kerry initiative.”
He underscored the importance of confidence-building measures and said that it was important not just to talk but to act.
Before meeting Netanyahu, Westerwelle stressed that Germany “stands by its Israeli partners” during these “very challenging times.”
“We want to work together and we want to support you,” he said. “This is what our friendship is about and I’m using the word friendship, which is from our understanding, more than a partnership.
This is not only a strategic alliance – this is a friendship between societies, between peoples and between governments.”
Neither Westerwelle nor Netanyahu referred in their opening statements to a recent hiccup in the relationship, first reported last week by The Jerusalem Post, having to do with Germany’s announcement that it will seek membership in the UN Security Council in 2019. By doing so, Berlin is weakening Israel’s chance to win its first ever seat on the body that year.
Israel announced already in 2005 it was putting forth its candidacy for the 2019 slot as part of the Western Europe and Other (WEOG) regional grouping.
Belgium has also put forth its candidacy for the position.
Israel is the only country in the region, and one of the few countries in the UN, that has never sat on the Security Council, a body that has historically had a tremendous impact on Israel and the region. The issue was raised during Westerwelle’s talks in Jerusalem.Greer Fay Cashman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.