At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kerry made comments summarizing his recent trips since the peace process began five months ago. He reminded everyone that difficult decisions would be made and today he stated, ‘We are close to that time, if not at it,’ he said.
Kerry said he will spend the next few days working intensely with both the Israelis and Palestinians to narrow differences on a framework for future negotiations on such core issues as ‘borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition and the end of conflict and all claims.’
Speaking at the press conference Netanyahu said, ‘The only peace that can endure is one that Israel can defend. Vowing he would ‘never compromise on the security of Israel’ and its vital interests, Netanyahu expressed hope for building a ‘rock-solid foundation for security and a secure peace.’
Kerry emphasized that the ideas being discussed emerged from both sides, stressing his role was 'not to impose American ideas' but rather to facilitate the 'parties’ own efforts.
Adding to his firm opening remarks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued however with a gloomy assessment of peace prospects with the Palestinians.
‘There is growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace,’ said Netanyahu, speaking with Kerry at his side and accusing Palestinian officials of orchestrating a campaign of ‘rampant’ incitement against Israel, according to Reuters this afternoon.
An area of discord and tension was when Netanyahu specifically criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the heroes' welcome he gave a group of Palestinian prisoners, most convicted of murdering Israelis, who were released from Israeli jails on Tuesday.
Despite the tension in the air, Kerry focused his remarks on a continued U.S. push toward a final peace agreement, which Washington hopes to achieve by the end of April, and his shorter-term pursuit of a framework deal that would pave the way for a permanent accord.
Guidelines in such an accord would address the core issues and ‘It would create the fixed, defined parameters by which the parties would then know where they are going and what the end result can be,’ Kerry said. ‘This will take time and it will take compromise from both sides, but an agreed framework would be a significant breakthrough.’
Kerry is expected to hold separate meetings over the next few days with Netanyahu and Abbas.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, a senior U.S. State Department official said Kerry was not expecting a breakthrough during this trip but an agreement on 'framework.'
To read more about previous Middle East efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials, please, see Author's list of suggested articles.