* Netanyahu holds talks with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry
* Kerry also due to meet Palestinian President Abbas
* U.S. chief diplomat says confident progress possible
By Lesley Wroughton
JERUSALEM, Nov 6 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said on Wednesday peace talks with the Palestinians
had failed to make real progress and he hoped visiting U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry could get them back on track.
The grim picture painted by the right-wing leader was
similar to the one sketched by senior Palestinians, who have
said an Israeli plan announced last week for 3,500 more settler
homes in the occupied West Bank was a major obstacle to the
success of the negotiations.
"I am concerned about the progress because I see the
Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create
artificial crises, continuing to avoid, run away from the
historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace,"
Netanyahu told reporters, with a stone-faced Kerry at his side.
Netanyahu said he hoped Kerry's discussions in Jerusalem and
with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "will help steer (the
negotiations) back to a place where we could achieve the
historical peace that we seek."
Kerry, whose shuttle diplomacy helped to revive the
land-for-peace talks last July after a three-year break, said he
was confident progress could be made in the six months remaining
in a nine-month target window for a deal.
But he also acknowledged the negotiations had run into
difficulties and spoke of a need for "real compromises and hard
decisions" from both sides.
"President Obama sees the road ahead as do I and we share a
belief in this process or we wouldn't put time into it," said
Kerry, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday.
Few details have emerged from the negotiations, held at
unannounced times and at secret locations in line with pledges
to keep a lid on leaks.
But Palestinian officials have been airing their frustration
over a lack of movement on core issues such as the borders of a
Palestinian state, security arrangements, the future of Israeli
settlements and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Abbas, in a speech broadcast on Monday, said that after all
the rounds of negotiations "there is nothing on the ground".
Public friction between the two sides has been focused on
Israel's public linkage of its release of Palestinian prisoners
and its drive to erect more homes for settlers.
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 that
Palestinians abandoned in 2010 over settlement building.
Palestinians have bridled at any suggestion they agreed to
turn a blind eye to the settlement campaign, on land they seek
for a state, in return for the men, long-serving inmates
convicted of killing Israelis.
The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank and
East Jerusalem, territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East
war 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.
In another development, Netanyahu said former Israeli
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will return to the cabinet
after his acquittal in a corruption trial on Wednesday.
The right-wing powerbroker is a hardliner on the peace talks
with the Palestinians.