United States Secretary of State John Kerry called on Israeli and Palestinian officials to “lead” in order to prevent peace talks from collapsing. During a state visit to Algeria, Kerry said that talks had “made progress” over the last several days and confirmed that they were at a “critical stage.”
Kerry made clear that the completion of talks was now contingent on Israeli and Palestinian leaders who he urged to “find the compromise that is critical to be able to move forward.” The secretary of state said that the U.S. has done all it could to rescue peace negotiations and would continue efforts “no matter what.”
“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” he said. “The leaders have to lead and they have to be able to see a moment when it’s there.”
Kerry, who referenced the old proverb that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, told Israeli and Palestinian officials, “Now is the time to drink.”
The secretary said it would be a total “tragedy” should Israel and the Palestinians lose the opportunity “to get to those real issues that are the differences of the final status agreement.”
Meetings between Kerry and both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon.
Kerry’s comments came on the heels after a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators fell apart. Led by American negotiators, the emergency all-night meeting took a turn for the worst when head Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Israeli negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, that he was a representative of the state of Palestine.
According to Palestinian Ma’an news agency, Erekat told the Israelis, “We are here to negotiate in the name of the UN-recognized State of Palestine, not in the name of a Palestinian Authority whose inputs and outputs are controlled by Israel.”
In response, Livni and fellow negotiator Yitzhak Molho threatened to impose “endless actions” on the Palestinians should they continue seeking unilateral recognition.
Erekat threatened that he would take Israel to the International Criminal Court at the Hague in response to the sanctions, calling Israel “war criminals.”
The meeting lasted from 7:30 pm Wednesday to 4:30 am Thursday. Sources who were present during the meeting described it as “long and heated” and culminating in a “fierce political battle.”
Martin Indyk, the American mediator, was reportedly told by Palestinian negotiator Majed Faraj that she should stop supporting Israel.
Negotiations took another dive earlier this week when Abbas applied to be a part of 15 bodies of the UN, which is being viewed as first steps in seeking statehood. U.S. lawmakers are outraged at the latest move and are contemplating cutting all aid to the Palestinians in response.