U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday for the first time since world powers struck a nuclear deal with Iran that angered the Jewish state, and amid renewed efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace talks, reports AFP.
The two issues are expected to dominate Kerry’s meetings on Thursday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas when Kerry travels to Ramallah.
A State Department official quoted by AFP said Kerry would provide Netanyahu with an update on, and "continue the discussion... on the P5+1 negotiations, the first step that was agreed to, as well as the path forward to a comprehensive agreement" with Iran.
The State Department official travelling with Kerry claimed that while there was a "disagreement over tactics ... as we all know, the Israelis had supported an effort to have a comprehensive agreement."
He said Kerry would discuss with Netanyahu the steps to reaching a final and definitive accord with Iran on its nuclear program.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the agreement that was signed with Iran is dangerous and will allow Tehran to continue its nuclear program and give nothing back to the West while being rewarded with sanctions relief.
This position has placed the Israeli Prime Minister at odds with the U.S. administration, to the point where President Barack Obama reportedly told him to “take a breather” from his criticism and shift attention to the terms of the final deal still under negotiation.
Kerry has previously claimed that the Iran deal was the "best chance in a decade... to halt progress and roll back Iran's program." He has said that Netanyahu’s claims that the deal hurts Israel’s security were unfounded.
As for the other issue on the agenda during Kerry’s visit, the deadlocked Israeli-PA negotiations, the state department official told AFP that Kerry "always said he would visit the region when he felt he could personally help move the process forward, so that is the goal of this trip."
The peace talks until now have been widely panned as a failure, following a catastrophic visit by Kerry last month. During those talks, Kerry made a number of threats against Israel - including a "third intifada" if talks failed - and declared Israel's presence in the Judea and Samaria areas as "illegitimate."
Earlier Wednesday it was reported that Kerry is planning to present Netanyahu with a new security proposal regarding Judea and Samaria.