John Kerry Says 'Groundwork' Set for Peace Talks With Israel and Palestinians

Agreement Reached To Resume Negotiations — Details Sparse

getty images

By Reuters

Published July 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel and the Palestinians have laid the groundwork for resuming peace talks after an almost three-year stalemate, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday, although he cautioned the deal was not final and required more diplomacy.

Kerry, winding up his sixth Middle East brokering mission this year, gave few details. He anticipated Israeli and Palestinian envoys would come to Washington soon for what a U.S. official said would mark the launch of direct negotiations.

“I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final-status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry told reporters in Amman.

“The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private,” he said. “We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful.”

Peacemaking has ebbed and flowed for two decades, last breaking down in late 2010 over Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where, along with the Gaza Strip, Palestinians seek statehood.

The Palestinians, with international backing, have said that state must have borders approximating the territories’ boundaries before Israel captured them in the 1967 Middle East War - a demand hard to reconcile with the Jewish state’s insistence on keeping swathes of settlements under any eventual peace accord.

Israeli and Palestinian officials cautiously welcomed Kerry’s announcement. Both sides face hardline opposition at home to compromise in a stubborn conflict of turf and faith.

“I know that as soon as the negotiations start, they will be complex and not easy,” Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of the diplomatic drive, wrote on Facebook. “But I am convinced with all my heart that it is the right thing to do for our future, our security, our economy and the values of Israel.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, told Reuters: “The announcement today did not mean the return to negotiations. It meant efforts would continue to secure the achievement of Palestinian demands…. Israel must recognise the 1967 borders.”

Kerry said that Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat could travel to Washington “within the next week or so, and a further announcement will be made by all of us at that time”.

Asked if that meeting of envoys would be considered the start of negotiations, a U.S. official said, “Yes.”

MONTHS OF TALKS

The talks would take months to unfold, an Israeli and a Palestinian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Such a duration, the Israeli official said, was needed “to ensure the process is substantive and comprehensive, and to get us past September”.

That referred to the annual U.N. General Assembly, where the Palestinians had planned to seek recognition for their statehood claim in the absence of direct engagement with the Israelis.

The United Nations welcomed Kerry’s announcement in a statement that called it a “positive development,” but it also urged both sides to “show leadership, courage, and responsibility to sustain this effort towards achieving the two-state vision.”

Netanyahu, a right-winger, has long balked at withdrawing to the 1967 lines, and his coalition government includes a nationalist-religious faction opposed to any settlement removal.

But another coalition partner, centrist Finance Minister Yair Lapid, told Israel’s top-rated Channel Two television, “There is a solid majority in this Cabinet for going to negotiations.”

Abbas’ own authority is in question; while his U.S.-backed administration holds sway in the West Bank, Gaza is governed by rival, armed Hamas Islamists who reject permanent coexistence with the Jewish state.

“Abbas does not have the legitimacy to negotiate on fateful issues on behalf of the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Kerry’s announcement, on the Jewish Sabbath evening and as Muslims ended their daily Ramadan fast, may have been meant in part to deflect domestic scrutiny from Netanyahu and Abbas.

Their “courageous leadership” was commended by Kerry.

“Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction. We wouldn’t be standing here tonight if they hadn’t made the choices,” he said.

Kerry’s drive to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was endorsed earlier this week by the Arab League, which potentially holds out the prospect of a broader regional peace with Israel upon the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Arab League’s own peace proposals, launched over a decade ago, foundered on the issue of a return to 1967 borders, but it confirmed on Wednesday it had shifted its position to countenance “limited exchange of territory of the same value and size”.


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!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • 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.