US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he would not be able to visit Israel over the coming weekend, despite an announcement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would, AFP reports. Instead, Kerry said he would try to visit Israel again after the November 28 Thanksgiving holiday. It will be his eighth visit to Israel since he took up the post as America's top diplomat in February.
"It looks as if I probably will not be able to get there over the course of this weekend. But I am committed to going in order to engage in the ongoing discussions that we are currently engaged in shortly after the Thanksgiving break, as soon as we can work out the timings." Kerry was speaking after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the State Department.
Netanyahu said he and Kerry would also discuss the ongoing direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Talks between Israel and the PA tanked last week after PA negotiators pulled out, protesting Israel's demands to safeguard the security of its citizens. The PA has also demanded that Israel change its current coalition government to facilitate the talks' success - a move which may not be possible given the current political climate.
The talks have also caused a landmark falling out between the US and Israel, after Kerry made a number of inflammatory remarks - including claims that Jewish residence in Judea and Samaria is "illegitimate," and threats of a "third intifada" if talks with the PA fail. US and Israeli officials have endeavored to fix the precarious situation over the weekend, with unclear results.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly emphasized both his willingness to engage with Iran in a diplomatic solution, and a connection between US support of Iran sanctions and the success of Israel-PA talks. However, he is not willing to see eye-to-eye with Netanyahu over the importance of Israel ensuring regional and national security. Recent reports indicate that he is further stalling renewal of relations by ignoring Netanyahu's calls.