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!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • 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.