Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine are set to resume as soon as next week.
Kerry made the announcement from Amman, Jordan, where he traveled after a last-ditch meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to confirm that an agreement reached to relaunch the talks was in place. While the details of the talks still need to be finalized, the announcement that the two side had agreed to an “establishing basis” still marks significant improvement over the previous condition of the peace process. The last round of direct talks between the two sides stalled out in 2010 over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, with several roadblocks since then preventing their renewal.
During his announcement, Kerry praised Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making the tough decisions necessary to allow the process to move forward. If everything goes as expected, Kerry said, Israeli Justice Minster Tzipi Livini and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat will join Secretary Kerry as soon as next week for talks and another announcement. “This is a significant and welcome step forward,” he told reporters, but stressed that the process was still “in the process of being formalized.”
The senior Israeli official said that Kerry would unveil in his announcement an outline for the talks: negotiations on borders will be based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps – taking into account the current reality in the West Bank, i.e. the major settlement blocs.
Kerry is expected to say that the goal of the negotiations will be to reach the reality of “two states for two people” – Palestine as a Palestinian state and Israel as a Jewish state[.]
Kerry has made restarting negotiations between the two a centerpiece of his time at Foggy Bottom, having made six trips to the Middle East in just the few months he’s been in office. Speaking before the Senate in April, Kerry warned that if a two-state solution is not reached within the next two years, “it’s over.” While many commentators disparaged his focus on Israel-Palestine, those efforts and since of urgency have paid off in recent weeks, as seen in today’s announcement and the League of Arab States deciding to back Kerry’s proposals earlier this week.
CAP expert Matt Duss issued a statement on the resumption of talks, saying Secretary Kerry’s efforts “demonstrate the best traditions of American diplomacy and show the continued importance of American leadership in the region and the world”:
As stated by multiple U.S. presidents and military leaders, finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the national security interests of the United States. The American people are understandably wary of the costs of continued engagement in the Middle East. The transitions now occurring in the region will continue to challenge policymakers in ways we can’t anticipate. While pessimism over the prospects for a two-state agreement is in fashion in Washington, Secretary Kerry’s diligent efforts over the past months have borne fruit and should be supported by those with an interest in a strong and secure United States, Israel, and Palestine.