CMEP Bulletin: Kerry carries on in quest for peace
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, the fourth visit in barely two months, to revive the peace process. While Kerry’s current push is the strongest since Condoleezza Rice’s 2008 efforts, he is having difficulty overcoming political inertia and the persitant challenge of overcoming the skepticism harbored by both Israeli and Palestinian officials and their people.
Kerry landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday and began a flurry of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials. In an appearance before his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kerry said, “I know this region well enough to know that there is skepticism, in some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment.” Reports indicate that Kerry is pushing for a mixture of economic, political, and security measures to bring the parties to the table.
In public, Israeli and Palestinian leaders were supportive of Kerry’s efforts. Netanyahu told Kerry in a statement after their meeting, “Above all, what we want to do is to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians… You’ve been working at it a great deal. We’ve been working at it together. It’s something I want. It’s something you want. It’s something I hope the Palestinians want, as well.”
Days before Kerry’s visit, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat made a similar statement, “Make no mistake we are exerting every possible effort in order to see that Mr. Kerry succeeds. No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry than Palestinians and no one loses more from his failure than Palestinians.”
According to Menachem Klein, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University, despite public displays of support officials on both sides are privately saying that they do not have faith in Kerry’s efforts. He told the Washington Post, “[Kerry] does not show them that he has a stance that he is ready to put much pressure on the other side,” Klein said.
Days before Kerry’s visit, he did call Netanyahu to express his displeasure over the news that the Israeli government intended to legalize four settlement outposts. Kerry requested that the government rethink its decision, or at least postpone the legalization. Kerry had earlier requested that Netanyahu “restrain” settlement activity to give him time to work on restarting negotiations.
Before his departure for Jordan to attend an economic conference, he told reporters that he considered coming back to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday but decided against it in order to give the sides time to make “hard decisions.” This would seem to bode ill for the possibility of progressing talks. On the other hand, the implicit threat to break off diplomacy could spur action.