Peace is not “mission impossible”, according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The top U.S. diplomat remained as optimistic as ever on Wednesday about the chances of reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Kerry, who was in Israel and the Palestinian Authority to push for the continuation of peace talks, met with President Shimon Peres after meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the day.
"I'm convinced from my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as with President Abbas that this is not mission impossible, this can happen,” Kerry told Peres.
“It will require both leaders to make big, historic, difficult decisions but I'm also convinced those are decisions that are absolutely, totally in the interests of their country Israel and their country to be, Palestine and in the interest of both people's,” he added.
“President Obama has asked me to put this time into this effort, he is deeply committed to this cause and we believe that over the next months, with good effort, we hopefully can make some progress," declared Kerry.
Peres, who welcomed Kerry to Jerusalem, said that there was no better alternative other than the “two-state solution”.
“I want really to express our deepest appreciation and respect for your unmatched energy and devotion in the face of such a complex situation,” said Peres. “You can lead, urge and provide compromises but all of us, Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, Israelis; we don't have a better alternative. The cost of making peace goes up daily and we don't have as much time as people think.”
He added, “I believe that we have an agreement about how to conclude the negotiations but I know it's not simple. I know the complications. The Palestinians leaders, including President Abbas, know there is no real alternative for them as there is no real alternative for us, that will bring peace. The alternative is to renew conflict, to renew hate but there is no alternative to peace other than the two state solution."
Kerry’s visit to Israel came amid reports of a crisis in the talks, started by the PA because of Israel’s planned construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, a senior PA official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the PA would refuse to continue the talks as long as “Jewish settlement” continues.
The PA is angry about recent Israeli announcements of new construction, despite the fact that it was informed in advance that Israel will continue to build as talks continue. The areas in which Israel plans to build are areas that even the PA has accepted will be part of Israel in a future deal.
Netanyahu has rejected the PA’s contention that recent decisions on construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria contravene agreements reached at the outset of negotiations.
Kerry on Wednesday confirmed after meetings with PA representatives in Bethlehem that the U.S. stance on Jewish life in Judea and Samaria is condemnation.
"We consider now, and have always considered, the settlements to be illegitimate," Kerry said after meeting with Abbas.
He claimed that "at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree, as a matter of going back to the talks, that they could somehow condone or accept" Jewish building efforts in Judea and Samaria.
In August, shortly after peace talks re-launched at Kerry’s urging, the Secretary of State said that new Israeli construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria was expected and added that it should not affect the resumption of peace talks.