John Kerry Admits Peace Talks 'Difficulties'

Gloomy Mood as Top Diplomat Jets Into Israel

getty images

By Reuters

Published November 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday Israeli- Palestinian peace talks had run into difficulties but thought it still possible some agreement could be reached.

Israeli and Palestinian officials painted a grim picture of the talks resumed under Kerry’s tutelage in July after a long stalemate, saying they were going nowhere.

“I come here without any illusions about the difficulties, but I come here determined to work,” Kerry said after arriving in Israel ahead of talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We believe this is something that is possible and that it’s good for all and can be achieved,” Kerry told a remembrance service for late Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 2005 by a right-wing Israeli opposed to his peacemaking with Palestinians.

Few details have emerged from negotiating sessions between the two sides held at unannounced times and at secret locations in line with pledges to keep a lid on leaks.

But both sides have been airing their frustration over a lack of progress on core issues such as the borders of a Palestinian state, security arrangements, the future of Israeli settlements in occupied territory and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

“The Palestinians are not conducting the talks in good faith,” Gideon Saar, the Israeli interior minister told Army Radio. “(The Palestinians) are locked in their positions and are showing no flexibility on their starting positions.”

Abbas, in a speech broadcast on Monday, said: “After all the rounds of negotiations there is nothing on the ground.”

On the sidelines of the peace talks, Israel has released half of the 104 Palestinian prisoners it pledged to free under a deal Kerry brokered to draw Abbas back to negotiations after a three-year break over Israeli settlement-building.

SETTLEMENT BUILDING

Israel says continued housing construction in settlements, in areas it intends to keep in any peace accord, was part of those understandings, which led to the return home of long-serving Palestinian inmates convicted of killing Israelis.

In tandem with the release of 26 men last week, Israel pressed ahead with plans to build 3,500 more settler homes in the West Bank, a move widely seen as an attempt by Netanyahu to placate hardliners in his government.

Nabil Abu Rdeineh, an Abbas spokesman, condemned the settlement campaign but said Palestinians remained committed to the negotiations.

“What’s required is a firm American position on Israel’s provocations. Israel is continuing its policy of putting obstacles in front of the peace process - every time Kerry comes to the region they announce more settlements.”

Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of reneging on what he said was an agreed prisoners-settlements link.

“If they can’t even … stand beside and behind the agreements that we had, that we release prisoners but we continue building, then how can I see that they’ll actually stand by the larger issues?” he said in an interview with the Israel-based i24 television news channel.

Abbas, speaking to his Fatah party on Sunday, voiced opposition to any such linkage, cautioning that “this equation could blow up the talks” and “there could be tensions soon”.

The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal by most countries. Israel cites historical and biblical links to the areas, where about 500,000 Israelis now live alongside 2.5 million Palestinians.

Israeli media on Monday reported that Kerry, who has given the sides nine months to reach a deal, plans in January to introduce a peace proposal if no major progress is made.

Kerry told a news conference in Riyadh on Monday there was no such plan “at this point in time”. But he has spoken of possible U.S. bridging proposals if no major progress is made.


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!
  • 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:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • 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.