Ramallah/Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat—US secretary of state John Kerry is pushing to restart the Palestinian–Israeli peace negotiations as early as next month, a Palestinian source informed Asharq Al-Awsat.
Kerry met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah yesterday while dozens of Palestinians rallied outside against US support for Israeli violence. One protester carried a placard that read, “Kerry, we do not trust you or the US.” Another proclaimed that “the US is not a friend of the Palestinian people.”
In his fourth visit to Palestine since he replaced Hilary Clinton as head of the US department of state, Kerry expressed optimism over prospective peace talks.
“It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient—but detailed and tenacious—that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace,” he said.
“Above all, what we want to do is restart the peace talks,” Kerry added.
During his visit, Kerry held separate meetings with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas emphasized the need to re-launch peace talks with Israel, denouncing the growing Israeli settlement activity.
For his part, Netanyahu expressed his support for Kerry’s endeavor to restart talks with the Palestinian side but asserted that the US secretary of state must lay down clear-cut conditions for any talks.
Palestinian sources expressed pessimism regarding the US’s latest efforts to restart the peace process, emphasizing that Kerry will not be able to convince Netanyahu of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders or to stop settlement building during any talks.
One Palestinian official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed: “Kerry discussed the possibility of putting forward a new peace initiative in June with Abbas and Netanyahu.”
“So far, [Kerry] seems unable to convince the Israelis; however, he continues to press forward,” the source added.
Alongside his peace initiative, Kerry is in the process of drawing up a plan to revive the Palestinian economy, a senior US state department official confirmed.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2010, after Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has stressed that Israel must halt all settlement building before he will agree to any talks.
Kerry left Israel earlier today following an additional round of talks with Netanyahu and Abbas.
Before leaving the country, he told reporters: “We are reaching the time [when] leaders need to make hard decisions,” adding, “I made clear in my discussions [with Netanyahu] that the parties should be focused on making progress towards … direction negations.”