Early Peace Discussions With Israelis and Palestinians 'Very Productive', Says Kerry

But 'Hard Decisions' Must Be Made Soon

Getty Images

By Reuters

Published May 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli and Palestinian leaders must decide soon on whether to revive long-dormant peace negotiations to end their decades-old conflict, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday.

Ending two days of meetings in the region, Kerry said he had had “very productive” talks. But there were no obvious signs of any breakthrough, with neither side offering the sort of compromises needed to end a three-year stalemate.

“We are reaching the time where leaders need to make hard decisions,” Kerry said at the end of his fourth visit to the region in barely two months as he struggles to overcome deeply entrenched positions that have snarled the peace process.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has held separate talks in Israel and the Palestinian territories to voice support for Kerry, told reporters in Jerusalem he had not yet seen any significant progress.

“I don’t think we are in a position to say that the necessary compromises have been made,” he said.

“Unless bold leadership is there to make the most of this opportunity, then we face a bleak situation in the Middle East,” he added, warning that time was running out to secure an independent nation for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have repeatedly said they will only resume negotiations if Israel halts settlement building on land seized in the 1967 Middle East War, where it wants to establish its future state.

OUTPOST ANGER

The Israeli government has said there should be no preconditions and drew anger earlier this month when it turned to the courts to try to legalise four unauthorized West Bank settler outposts.

Kerry said he had raised the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose centre-right government includes many fervently pro-settler politicians.

“It is also clear that when actions are taken, whether by court or otherwise, it is our view that those actions can be deemed by some to be provocative…So it is our hope that there will be a minimal effort there,” Kerry said.

On taking office in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Israel to halt its settlement programme. Netanyahu agreed to a partial freeze, but did not extend it beyond an initial 10-month period and Washington quietly dropped the demand.

Obama made his first official visit to Jerusalem this March to re-launch U.S. peace efforts, with Palestinian officials talking about a June 7 cut-off point for the U.S.-led diplomacy.

The Palestinians say it is pointless to hold negotiations while the Israeli building continues in the West Bank and east Jerusalem - home to some 500,000 settlers.

In the absence of formal peacemaking, the Palestinians last year gained de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations. Israel is worried that they will use their new-found status to join the International Criminal Court and pursue war crimes charges against the Jewish state.

EU and U.S. diplomats have warned that the spread of the settlements could prove irreversible and Kerry has said the window of opportunity for securing an historic peace deal might close within two years.

“I made clear in my discussions that the parties should be focused on making progress toward…direct negotiations,” he said on Friday, adding that each side needed to “refrain from provocative rhetoric or actions … that take us backwards.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.