Kerry Announces Resumption of Peace Talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"I'm pleased to announce that we've reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis," Kerry told reporters in Amman, Jordan, according to AFP.
"This is a significant and welcome step forward,” he added. “The agreement is still in the process of being finalized so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now."
The top U.S. diplomat added that PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington "to begin initial talks within the next week or so."
In his brief comments to the press, Kerry praised the courage of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"No one believes the long-standing differences between the parties will be resolved overnight or just wiped away. We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead," he said, according to AFP.
"Today, however, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because of the courageous leadership by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here and both of them were instrumental."
The announcement on the resumption of negotiations came after Kerry flew from Jordan to Ramallah earlier in the day to meet Abbas as he battled to salvage his Middle East peace bid.
Kerry had spent four hours earlier on the phone talking to both sides before making the decision to dash to Ramallah to meet Abbas for the third time this week, reported AFP.
The whirlwind diplomacy came after the PA leadership rejected Kerry's proposals for a framework to guide the relaunch of peace talks with the Israelis stalled for nearly three years.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to resume talks.
"The president encouraged Prime Minister Netanyahu to continue to work with Secretary Kerry to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible," the White House said in a statement, after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
Meanwhile, a PA leader told the Associated Press on Friday that Kerry’s plan to get Israel and the PA talking again involves getting Israel to release hundreds of terrorist prisoners.
Ahmed Majdalani said that Kerry has assured PA leaders that Israel would gradually free some 350 terrorists in the coming months. The prisoners would include some 100 men that were arrested over terrorist attacks carried out before the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israel has refused to free these terrorists in the past because many of them carried out some of the deadliest attacks against Israelis.
According to Majdalani, Kerry would endorse the pre-1967 borders as the starting point of negotiations. The plan does not include a freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.
Abbas has insisted that Israel recognize the 1949 Armistice Line as a designated border for any future PA state before any talks begin, one of his many preconditions on talks. Israel refuses, as these borders are indefensible and withdrawing back to them would guarantee its destruction.
Bayit Yehudi Chairman and Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett, made clear on Thursday that his party will not be a partner in a government that holds diplomatic negotiations based on the idea of returning to Israel's pre-1967 borders.
"The Bayit Yehudi party, which I head, will not be a partner, even for one second, in a government that agrees to negotiate based on [pre-]'67 lines,” he stated. “Our capital, Jerusalem, is not up for negotiations and will never be up for negotiations.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)