U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Thursday evening and met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as part of his efforts to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The meeting lasted for more than four hours.
Earlier Thursday, Kerry met in Jordan with King Abdullah and discussed the peace process with him. On Friday, Kerry will return to Amman where he will meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He is expected to return to Jerusalem on Saturday night and meet once again with Netanyahu.
The content of Netanyahu and Kerry's talks was not immediately made public, but Channel 10 News quoted members of Kerry’s entourage as saying that the Secretary hopes to convince Israel and the PA to hold a meeting next week attended by representatives from both sides. It is not yet clear whether the meeting will be between Israeli negotiators Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and attorney Yitzhak Molcho and their PA counterpart, Saeb Erekat, or between Netanyahu and Abbas themselves.
The report noted that if the meeting indeed takes place, it will be held in Jordan and its purpose will not be to start negotiations, but to discuss each side’s demands for restarting negotiations. Kerry has appointed two envoys who will operate out of Israel to promote direct talks between the sides.
Netanyahu has clearly indicated on more than one occasion that he is willing to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Abbas, however, has refused to talk and has continued to impose preconditions on talks with Israel, including a demand that Israel release terrorists who were jailed before 1993, freeze construction in Judea and Samaria and even present a map of the future Palestinian state before any negotiations take place.
Earlier on Thursday, at a ceremony marking the 109th anniversary of the death of the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, Netanyahu stressed that any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority must be based on Israel's ability to defend itself if the agreement breaks down.
President Shimon Peres, also speaking at the ceremony on Mount Herzl stated that, “Peace is a moral foundation of Judaism; it is an existential need of the Jewish state. A binational state contradicts the vision of Herzl; it endangers the Jewish and democratic state of Israel.”
“There is a chance to renew the peace process, and it is not to be missed. We welcome the arrival of Secretary of State Kerry, to Israel. This is an effort to revive the process and we will all help it to succeed,” he added.