Thursday, June 27, 2013

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to arrive in Israel Thursday for Mideast peace bid

The fifth time in three months


JERUSALEM, June 27 - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in Israel on Thursday afternoon, the fifth time in three months, to make further efforts to resume peace talks between the Jewish country and the Palestinians.

Kerry is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening and Saturday evening. In between, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in neighboring Jordan and with Israel's chief negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday.

On Wednesday, during a press conference in Kuwait, Kerry said there is no set deadline to restart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which came to a halt over Israel's renewed construction in the settlements in the West Bank in 2010. However, he did say it is preferable to make progress by September, when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York.

There are conflicting accounts of both parties' willingness and optimism regarding the possible renewal of the peace process. On Thursday morning, members on both sides accused the other of not being serious.

Palestinian Fatah official Jibril Rajoub told Israel Radio "the ball is in the other court." He further denounced a Jerusalem municipal committee's decision on Wednesday to construct 69 new housing units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.

On the other hand, hawkish lawmaker Ofir Akunis (from Netanyahu 's Likud party) told Israel Radio that the resumption of the peace talks "depends on one side alone -- the Palestinians."

Meanwhile, there have been reports of progress and optimism in both Jerusalem and Ramallah on restarting the peace talks.

The Ha'aretz daily reported on Thursday that according to a Likud minister, Netanyahu will be willing to withdraw from 90 percent of the West Bank and evacuate numerous settlements as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, in exchange for security arrangements that will answer Israel's needs.

Moreover, the official said, Netanyahu is interested in keeping an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

In a round-table press briefing on Wednesday prior to Kerry's visit, former Likud minister Dan Meridor also said he believes Netanyahu is committed to efforts of resuming peace talks with the Palestinians.

"He has a broad support from the Israeli people, even within his party. He is a third-time Prime Minister with a historic view of his role. He seems to understand that this (resuming peace talks) is important, based on the two-state solution," Meridor said.
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