Kerry meets Israelis, Palestinians in bid to revive talks

JERUSALEM Thu May 23, 2013 2:02pm EDT

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) waves as he stands next to Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat before his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Arouri/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) waves as he stands next to Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat before his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Fadi Arouri/Pool

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Thursday and acknowledged there was considerable skepticism that the two sides would resume peace negotiations.

There were no signs of any breakthrough as Kerry visited Israel for the fourth time in his four months in office to try to revive a peace process that has been moribund for more than two years.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over Israeli construction of Jewish settlements on occupied West Bank land that the Palestinians want as part of their future state.

"I know this region well enough to know that there is skepticism. In some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment," Kerry said as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posed for pictures.

"It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay out a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people but certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace."

Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for lunch in the West Bank city of Ramallah and returned to Jerusalem to see Shimon Peres, who holds Israel's largely ceremonial post of president. He will have breakfast on Friday with Netanyahu.

Before their meeting on Thursday morning, Netanyahu said he wanted to restart peace talks.

"It's something I hope the Palestinians want as well and we ought to be successful for a simple reason - when there's a will, we'll find a way," Netanyahu said.

The two men discussed ways to advance peace, Kerry's ideas for an economic plan to boost Palestinian growth and the "escalating violence" in neighboring Syria's civil war, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters after the meeting.

Peres wished Kerry success in his mission but the U.S. top diplomat responded by saying success would be a prize for the adversaries, not his.

"You said that 'if you succeed' or 'if you fail' - I think it's not me, Mr. President. It really is a question of whether Israel and the Palestinians make the choices," Kerry told Peres and added that regional players had reached a "critical moment".

"This moment is a really critical moment for the region and particularly for Israel and for Palestine and for Jordan ... the importance of trying to resolve this in this moment, where there is a willingness for people to look for a way, can't be overstated," Kerry said.

SETTLEMENTS

Last week, Kerry telephoned Netanyahu to voice U.S. concern at Israel's plan to declare legal four unauthorized West Bank settler outposts.

Most of the world deems all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Israel, which captured the land in the 1967 Middle East War, disputes this. There are about 120 government-authorized settlements in the West Bank and dozens of outposts built by settlers without official sanction.

The main issues that would have to be resolved in a peace agreement include the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state, the future of Jewish settlements, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

In his visits to the region, Kerry is also trying to put together an economic package for the Palestinians to go alongside the U.S. political initiative.

European diplomats, in meetings with Palestinian leaders, have been trying to steer them away from any notion the European Union might present a peace plan of its own. British Foreign Secretary of William Hague also held talks with Netanyahu and Abbas on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Comments (6)
TBellchambers wrote:
Kerry is wasting his time!

The position is now clear; Israel is interested in propaganda, not peace. Netanyahu is actively committed to the eventual forced transfer of all Muslim Arabs out of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in accordance with the charter of the Likud party of which he is leader. He has no intention of entering into any meaningful negotiations with the now over five million Palestinian Arabs who are the largest indigenous people of the region.
His government continues to provoke the international outrage by building illegal settlements in a bid to abort the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu continues to hold both Europe and the world, hostage to his right-wng, extremist agenda of racial superiority and nuclear dominance.
Pleas by both Europe and America are treated with contempt. The settlements are in clear violation of international law and the Geneva Convention on Human Rights and the EU and the UN insist that they all must be dismantled and their residents repatriated to Israel.
Until that policy is implemented, Israel will remain a pariah state that awaits someone of the stature and integrity of Nelson Mandela to replace this odious Israeli government and bring freedom and independence to Palestine.
This is the urgent priority before there is a war that will likely see the deployment of nuclear weapons of mass destruction against the indigenous peoples of the region and cause a nuclear conflagration that will make Syria look like a relatively minor regional conflict.
The failure of both the EU and President Obama to oppose the ever increasing demands of the privately-financed, powerful, Israel lobby is a tragic error that will eventual determine whether our sons will live in peace, or fight in war.

The position is now clear; Israel is interested in propaganda, not peace. Netanyahu is actively committed to the eventual forced transfer of all Muslim Arabs out of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in accordance with the charter of the Likud party of which he is leader. He has no intention of entering into any meaningful negotiations with the now over five million Palestinian Arabs who are the largest indigenous people of the region.
His government continues to provoke the international outrage by building illegal settlements in a bid to abort the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu continues to hold both Europe and the world, hostage to his right-wng, extremist agenda of racial superiority and nuclear dominance.
Pleas by both Europe and America are treated with contempt. The settlements are in clear violation of international law and the Geneva Convention on Human Rights and the EU and the UN insist that they all must be dismantled and their residents repatriated to Israel.
Until that policy is implemented, Israel will remain a pariah state that awaits someone of the stature and integrity of Nelson Mandela to replace this odious Israeli government and bring freedom and independence to Palestine.
This is the urgent priority before there is a war that will likely see the deployment of nuclear weapons of mass destruction against the indigenous peoples of the region and cause a nuclear conflagration that will make Syria look like a relatively minor regional conflict.
The failure of both the EU and President Obama to oppose the ever increasing demands of the privately-financed, powerful, Israel lobby is a tragic error that will eventual determine whether our sons will live in peace, or fight in war.

May 23, 2013 8:18am EDT  --  Report as abuse
rgbviews wrote:
It’s just a matter of time before Netanyahu finds a way to torpedo serious peace talks. He will do or say something that he knows will be totally unacceptable to the Palestinians. Then he will blame the Palestinians for not cooperating.

Netanyahu is an uncompromising extremist who simply cannot act as a partner in peace.

He will state his positions publicly in Israel and via AIPAC in the US (67 boundary is not on the table, the Palestinian State must be completely disarmed, etc.) and add that any agreement in which these positions are compromised would have no chance in passing an Israeli referendum. This will effectively place pre-conditions on the talks, and destroy the talks before they can even start. Kerry will have been duped.

May 23, 2013 10:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
KyleDexter wrote:
What a joke. Isreal wont be around in a few decades if they continue with this crap. Just look at all the governments in the region that were the ‘pillars of stability’. Many are gone. Isreal’s turn is bound to happen one of these days.

May 23, 2013 2:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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