US: We’re seeking new ideas from Israelis and Palestinians

State Department says Kerry is still engaged with both parties, despite numerous commitments to conflict resolution elsewhere.

John Kerry (photo credit: REUTERS)
John Kerry
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States wants the Israelis and Palestinians to come up with new ideas to arrive a two state solution to the conflict and to refrain from “unhelpful” action in the interim, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
It is for this reason, she explained, that when the Middle East Quartet met in Brussels on Monday with the US envoy Martin Indyk it did not publish any statement following the meeting.
“This was a regularly scheduled session and provided an opportunity for Ambassador Indyk and other envoys to assess where things stand and consult on the way ahead,” she said.
"Obviously, at this stage, we're clearly in a hiatus from the talks," Psaki said.
“Consistent with the approach of President [Barack] Obama and [US] Secretary [Secretary of State John] Kerry, the focus of these discussions and of the effort overall is on getting the two sides to come up with new ideas and avoid unhelpful steps. Hence there wasn’t a statement that came out,” Psaki said.
She spoke just weeks after a US led negotiating process ended on April 29th without any tangible results.
When the direct talks began the US had hoped to arrive at a final status agreement at the end of nine months. It then downgraded its expectations to a framework agreement of principles that would allow for further talks. But in the end, even that document was not feasible.
Now, Psaki told reporters, “It remains in the hands of the parties to take – make the choices necessary if they want to resume discussions. 
“There’s a great deal going on in the world, and Secretary Kerry is focused on everything from Ukraine to South Sudan, all the issues we talk about in here every day. But we’re still engaged with the parties,” she said.
Outside from the Quartet meeting of representatives from the US, the EU, the UN and Russia, a number of other high level conversations have occurred on the frozen peace process including between Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday.
Last week, Kerry met separately with PA Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. In addition, Livni and Abbas met on Thursday night. The Prime Minister's Office quickly clarified that Livni didn’t represent the state of Israel in that meeting. Livni herself has explained that the conversation was not part of any formal negotiating process. 
Speaking to reporters in the Knesset earlier in the week she said that in the absence of negotiations, “If we will have to think of alternative options to solve the conflict, that is what we will do.” 
But Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is the only Israeli politician to publicly present an Israeli plan for what happens in the absence of negotiations.
Even before the talks ended he said that should they fail, Israel must annex Area C of the West Bank.
He has repeated this statement to journalists since the end of the talks and this week published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on the matter.  
In it, he explained that Palestinians in Areas A and B of the West Bank, the encompasses the major cities and outlying suburbs, should have civic autonomy.
“They should hold their own elections, run their own schools, issue their own building permits and manage their own health-care system. In short, they should run their own lives. Israel should not interfere in day-to-day governance,” he wrote.
Palestinians living in Area C, he said, would be given full Israeli citizenship and explained that this would impact about 70,000 people. The United Nations has said that there are 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C.
Bennett said his plan also called for the dismantling of the security barrier and free movement for Palestinians in the West Bank.
“Israel can now stay reasonably secure without the barrier,” Bennett wrote.
“This will prove especially true if the Israeli government works with the international community to promote Palestinian economic development in Areas A and B,” he said.
“One promising idea is to encourage multinational corporations to invest in Palestinian areas by offering economic incentives such as insurance guarantees and tax breaks. There are also ways to streamline the export process for Palestinian manufacturers so products can reach their destination quickly and in perfect condition. Israel has become known as the "Startup Nation," but now it is time to build a "Startup Region,” he said.