U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in a press conference Sunday that there had been “real progress” in his talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority – but apparently not enough to organize a summit meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas, as Kerry had hoped to do. There was not even enough progress to declare a date for the resumption of negotiations between lower-level Israeli and PA negotiating teams.
At a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport Sunday afternoon, Kerry said that although no new talks had been scheduled, they were “within reach.” After meeting Saturday night with Netanyahu and on Sunday with Abbas for the third time, Kerry said that there had been “progress.” When asked what he meant by progress, Kerry said that he could not go into details. “The hardest part is to jumpstart the process,” he said.
“We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably," he said, describing them as "very narrow. We have some specific details and work to pursue but I am absolutely confident that we are on the right track and that all the parties are working in very good faith in order to get to the right place. I know progress when I see it,” Kerry added.
Kerry was asked by reporters if it was Israel's refusal to impose a building freeze in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem that was responsible for the fact that no negotiations had been set. In response, Kerry said that “the answer is no. There are any number of obstacles, but we are working through them. We have to have the courage to stay at this and to make some tough decisions," he said.
The PA has repeatedly proclaimed that it would not sit down with Israel unless Israel agreed in advance to a full building freeze, the release of many terrorists, including murderers, from Israeli prisons, and an Israeli acknowledgment of the “rights” of the descendants of PA Arabs to take property they claim their ancestors owned in the Land of Israel. Israel has so far refused to accept these preconditions, with Netanyahu calling for talks without preconditions.
Kerry did not say when the next round of talks would be set for, but promised he would be back, he said, “because both sides asked me to.”