U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that it is “long past time” for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reach a peace deal, but stressed that Israel’s security must be ensured in such a deal.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Kerry stressed that Israel cannot make peace with the PA so long as it fears that the Palestinian state will become another Gaza.
“The Palestinians need to know that at the end of the day, their territory is going to be free of Israeli troops; that occupation ends,” Kerry said, according to the Washington Post.
“But the Israelis, rightfully, will not withdraw unless they know that the West Bank will not become a new Gaza Nobody can blame any leader of Israel for being concerned about that reality,” he added.
Kerry made clear that, in his view, the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict would involve “a phased but complete withdrawal of Israeli forces” from Judea and Samaria.
He also noted that the goal is also “mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Palestinian people and the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Kerry said in his speech that if a peace agreement is reached, both sides would see major economic boosts from an explosion of tourism to the area, according to a report in Voice of America.
The Secretary of State added that "today's status quo will not last forever," and that failure will only embolden extremists.
Earlier, Kerry met with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. A senior State Department official told Voice of America that meeting focused on the need to address all "core issues."
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Netanyahu stressed that he will not evict any Israeli communities in the Jordan Valley as part of a future agreement.
The PA insists on full control of the Jordan Valley – along with all other land that was under Jordanian control from 1948 to 1967. Israeli experts have warned that the area is strategically critical and that, if Israel withdrew from it, terrorist organizations could easily fire rockets at Tel Aviv and the Ben Gurion Airport.
In his speech Friday, Kerry also challenged Iran to make good on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s more open stance to the world. Rouhani, who addressed the Davos forum Thursday, denied that his country has any intention to build a nuclear weapon.
“While the message is welcome, the words themselves are meaningless unless actions are taken to give them meaning,” Kerry said, according to the Washington Post.
“If you are serious about a peaceful program, it’s not that hard to prove that your program is peaceful,” he added.
He also pushed back against the accusation, voiced prominently at Davos by Sen. John McCain and Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, that the United States is retreating from its responsibilities in the Middle East. McCain has in the past referred to Kerry as “a human wrecking ball” and earlier this week blasted Obama and Kerry over their policy in Syria.
“This misperception appears to be based on the simplistic assumption,” Kerry said, “that the only tool of our influence is our military, and that if we don’t have a huge troop presence or aren’t brandishing an immediate threat of force, we are somehow absent from the arena.”
(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.)