Kerry: Israeli ‘prosperity’ prevents sense of urgency about peace

Secretary of state urges resumption of negotiations with Palestinians, says fast-approaching ‘challenges’ make timing of US initiative ‘critical’

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

President Shimon Peres meets with US Senator John Kerry at the President's Residence in Jerusalem in May 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
President Shimon Peres meets with US Senator John Kerry at the President's Residence in Jerusalem in May 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Israelis’ “sense of security” prevents them from feeling sufficient urgency to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Jerusalem Thursday, warning of fast-approaching “challenges” that required a change of approach for the Jewish State.

“I think there is an opportunity [for peace], but for many reasons it’s not on the tips of everyone’s tongue,” Kerry told reporters before entering a meeting with President Shimon Peres. “People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity.”

However, the chief US diplomat warned that the situation might not stay as stable.

“Over the horizon… one can see the challenges” that make it important “to resolve this at this moment, when there is a willingness for people to look for a way” to achieve an agreement, Kerry said.

Kerry’s visit, his fourth to Israel since taking office in February, coincides with deepening pessimism about a new American bid to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after years of stagnation. On Thursday, despite increasing signals on both sides that the possibility of resuming negotiations was slim, Kerry appeared determined to follow through with the initiative

He said that the US, led by President Barack Obama, “is completely at the disposal of both parties to try and help bridge the divide,” and would help shepherd Israel and the Palestinians toward an agreement if they chose to pursue talks.

“This moment is a critical one for the region and particularly for Israel, for Palestine and for Jordan,” he said. “We will work as hard as we can, you know how strongly we support Israel, you know how much we care about and admire the journey of the Israeli people, but our hope is that the leaders in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority will find the way to compromise and to achieve both of their goals, and I look forward to working with you on that enterprise.”

Standing alongside Kerry, Peres offered condolences to the US in the wake of the Oklahoma hurricane disaster before saying he backed Kerry’s peace push. “You have a mission of peace. If you will succeed it will be our success, if you miss out we shall miss out. We shall stand by your side, all the way.”

Kerry offered a gentle rebuke, saying peace was up to Israel and the Palestinians, not the US.

“It’s not me, Mr. President – it really is a question of whether Israel and the Palestinians make the choices,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Kerry met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and praised his seriousness and commitment to a two-state solution.

“There have been bitter years of disappointment,” Kerry said of the long stalemate. “It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient — but detailed and tenacious — that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace.”

“That’s what we’re working towards,” said Kerry, who was set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later Thursday in Ramallah.

Netanyahu said his conversation with the top American diplomat would touch on mutual concerns about Iran and Syria. “But above all,” he said, “what we want to do is restart the peace talks with the Palestinians.”

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