John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas
John Kerry and Mahmoud AbbasAFP photo

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Amman Tuesday for talks with Arab officials in his sixth visit to the region since taking office. He is not expected to come to Israel on this trip as he has in the past, aides said.

Kerry met first with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh before settling down to talks in the evening over dinner with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Both U.S. and PA officials told reporters following the meeting that chances the PA would return to the table for direct final status talks with Israel appeared “slim.” 

But State Department spokesman John Psaki told journalists Tuesday, “The secretary would not be going back to the region if he did not feel there was an opportunity to keep making steps forward,” the AFP news agency reported. 

On Wednesday (today) Kerry is scheduled to meet with Arab League officials, including a representative from Egypt in hopes of recruiting support for a wider peace initiative – and perhaps a means of pressuring bot the PA and Israel –  from the Arab community at large.

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told reporters at a news conference in northern Israel on Wednesday that Israel is still willing to negotiate whenever the PA is ready to come to the table – without preconditions.

“Not to meet once or twice, but rather to engage in a long-term discussion,” Ya’alon said. “But at this stage, the Palestinians are not willing to negotiate without preconditions and therefore, as things stand now, this initiative [by Secy Kerry] has not succeeded.”

The PA continues to insist that Israel first agree to freeze all Jewish construction within communities in Judea, Samaria and areas of Jerusalem restored to the capital following the 1967 Six Day War, and to release terrorist prisoners jailed prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords, before engaging in negotiations. 

In the past, the PA has insisted that Israel first agree to the establishment of any PA state along the 1949 Armistice Lines, also known as the “1967 borders” or “Green Line” before entering into any talks with Israel.

Military experts have determined that those lines are indefensible. In addition, nearly half a million Israelis currently reside in areas that would have to be evacuated to accommodate the PA demands. Moreover, within those areas are located the holiest sites in Judaism, including  the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in the ancient holy city of Hevron.

Israeli Minister of Communications Gilad Erdan recently accused the Palestinian leadership of wanting to "start negotiations from the finish line."