Abdullah tells Kerry Israel’s actions undermining peace

US secretary of state visits Amman ahead of dinner Thursday night with Netanyahu, making fifth attempt to cajole Israel and Palestinians back to negotiations

John Kerry meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Thursday night. (photo credit: US State Department)
John Kerry meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Thursday night. (photo credit: US State Department)

King Abdullah II of Jordan told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel’s actions were undermining peace, as the two held talks on Thursday ahead of Kerry’s visit to Israel.

Kerry is using Amman, Jordan, as a base for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the next three days.

Abdullah told Kerry that unilateral actions by Israel, and repeated attacks against Islamic and Christian sites under Israeli control were undermining possibilities and efforts to establish peace.

The Royal Palace said Abdullah also told Kerry he’s working to bridge the gaps between the two sides and address a variety permanent-status issues.

This is Kerry’s fifth visit to the region to try to restart peace talks.

Kerry arrived in Jerusalem Thursday evening and held a dinner meeting with Netanyahu. He is to have lunch with Abbas on Friday in Amman.

US State Department officials say that while there are no scheduled plans for any three-way discussion during Kerry’s trip, they are confident that both sides are open to negotiations, or at least sitting down together at the same table.

Kerry, they say, will continue to try to find common ground between the two sides that would lead to a re-launching of peace talks. On this trip, Kerry is trying to pin down precisely what conditions Abbas and Netanyahu have for restarting talks and perhaps discuss confidence-building measures.

Beyond that, Kerry wants to talk about the positive outcomes, such as enhanced economic growth, of a two-state solution. But at the same time, the secretary, who has long-time relationships with officials from both sides, will remind them of what’s at stake if the conflict is left unresolved, they said.

Earlier this month, in a speech to the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington, Kerry warned of serious consequences if no deal is reached.

“Think about what could happen next door,” he told the Jewish audience.” The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to a policy of nonviolence. … Up until recently, not one Israeli died from anything that happened from the West Bank until there was a settler killed about a month ago.

“But if that experiment is allowed to fail, ask yourselves: What will replace it? What will happen if the Palestinian economy implodes, if the Palestinian Security Forces dissolve, if the Palestinian Authority fails? … The failure of the moderate Palestinian leadership could very well invite the rise of the very thing that we want to avoid: the same extremism in the West Bank that we have seen in Gaza or from southern Lebanon.”

So far, there have been no public signals that the two sides are narrowing their differences.

Abbas has said he won’t negotiate unless Israel stops building settlements on war-won lands or accepts its 1967 lines — before the capture of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in a Mideast war that year — as a starting point for border talks. The Palestinians claim all three areas for their future state.

Netanyahu has rejected the Palestinian demands, saying there should be no preconditions — though his predecessor conducted talks on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, and the international community views the settlements as illegal or illegitimate.

On Wednesday, an Israeli planning committee gave the final approval for construction of dozens of new homes in a settlement in East Jerusalem. The announcement, which was made the day before Kerry’s visit, appeared to be an Israeli snub at the secretary of state’s latest round of Mideast diplomacy.

Officials traveling with Kerry sought to minimize the significance of the announcement, saying the US has repeatedly said that continued construction of settlements were unhelpful to efforts to restart the talks. The settlements are part of the Har Homa area of East Jerusalem. The Obama administration said it was “deeply concerned” back in 2011 when an Israeli planning commission approved 930 new housing units in the Har Homa neighborhood.

The Palestinian side condemned the announcement.

“Such behavior proves that the Israeli government is determined to undermine Secretary Kerry’s efforts at every level,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.


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