U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been shuttling between meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attempting to broker a viable peace agreement between the two sides. For the last three days, Kerry has met with advisers in both Jerusalem and Ramallah in efforts to reach a mutual peace agreement that satisfies both the demands of Israel and the Palestinians. This is Kerry’s tenth visit to the region in the past year.
Kerry is set to travel to Saudia Arabia and Jordan today to discuss his efforts as well as other regional issues in which the United States has an interest. He is slated to return Sunday evening to Jerusalem and may say several more days before returning back to Washington.
The current peace talks got off to a rocky start when Netanyahu publicly stated his concerns regarding the PA not being a viable partner for peace. When asked about reaching an agreement, Kerry explained that “These issues are not easy…These are complicated issues that involve…the survival of peoples. The conflict has gone on too long, so positions have hardened. Mistrust obviously exists at a very high level. So we have to work through that and around that and over that.”
Kerry has urged leadership on both sides to trust one another and come to negotiating table with open minds. “I know there are those out there on both sides who question whether peace is possible. I know there is a high level of cynicism, reservations about the possibilities. But it is clear to me that we can work to bridge the remaining gaps that do exists,” he explained. Sources inside the PA camp have said that Kerry is pressuring the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. However, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is standing firm against recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
The actual framework of the possible peace agreement is still unknown but is said to cover core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, and Palestinian refugees. Some members of government are already raising concerns. MK Ayalet Shaked, member of the Jewish Home party, has states that “A government that accepts the ’67 lines is a government of national suicide,” Her party has made it clear that it would pull out of the governing coalition should Israel adopt a framework agreement based on the ’67 lines. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that would oppose any deal that would allow Palestinian’s the right of return “for even one person.”
Addressing security concern, Kerry has stated that the Obama administration is committed to preserving Israeli national security. “The security of Israel is always paramount in my mind, in our mind,” he added, making it clear that “Israel’s security is critical and the United States relationship is ironclad.”
Meanwhile, across Jerusalem, Israeli President Shimon Peres met with visiting Republican senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Barrasso. Discussing his optimism regarding a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Peres told the senators “It’s a time of decisions. All decisions are tough but to not make a decision is a mistake. Secretary Kerry is investing significant time and effort and I believe that peace is possible despite the difficulties.”
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, McCain told Peres that regarding the peace agreement, the senators had “room for guarded optimism.”