Israel will not sign any deal with the Palestinians unless its security concerns are put to rest, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview with Channel 2, and hinted that evacuation of Israeli settlers from the West Bank may not be necessary.
In segments published Wednesday, Kerry dismissed criticism of him from right-wing Israeli politicians, particularly Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said the top US diplomat was “messianic and obsessive.”
“You know, those are judgments that other people may or may not have fun making in this process. I’m doing my job,” he said. Kerry said he was not insulted by Ya’alon’s remarks. “I think I am committed, and I’m determined.”
The full-length interview was set to be broadcast on Thursday.
The secretary of state declined to comment on his gut reaction in January to Yedioth Ahronoth’s publication of Ya’alon’s scathing criticism, which targeted the US’s mediation of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“People who know me know that when I sink my teeth into something, if I get the bit between my teeth, I try to get it done,” he said, dismissing the possibility of losing hope in a future peace deal between the two sides.
Kerry was in Paris Wednesday for talks aimed at reaching agreement on a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. They are working to define the framework for negotiators as they seek to forge a comprehensive settlement to the conflict.
“We are at an important point in the negotiations where we are engaged with narrowing the gaps between the parties on a framework for negotiations and it was an appropriate time to spend a few hours meeting with President Abbas to talk about the core issues,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The Israelis and Palestinians agreed to resume stalled talks that began last summer with a nine-month target for a peace deal. But there have been few tangible signs of progress as the May expiration of that period looms, and so the goal has been scaled back to getting consensus on an outline for negotiations.
Opening his meeting with Judeh, Kerry told reporters that he was “particularly grateful” for Jordan’s role in hosting more than 1.3 million Syrians who have fled the fighting in their country.
“It’s an extraordinary burden,” he said. “We’re proud that we are the number one donor to this crisis, but both of us want to stop having increased clients. We want an end to the refugee crisis, an end to the problem in Syria and we’re working hard to find ways forward on that.”
Kerry is in France on the last stop of an around-the-world journey that has already taken him to South Korea, China, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.