U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said time is running short for Israelis to negotiate a peace with Palestinians and that any sense of security with the status quo is illusory.
“What is static today will not be static tomorrow,” Kerry said yesterday in remarks to a conference in Washington sponsored by AJC, a Jewish advocacy group. Those who find comfort “because there’s a fence, and because there’s greater security and fewer people hurt, are lulling themselves into a delusion that that somehow can be sustained. It cannot be.”
Kerry said that if Israelis and Palestinians can’t reach agreement, the consequences include a failed Palestinian Authority, radical extremism in the West Bank and a further delegitimizing of Israel within the Arab world.
Kerry is set to travel to Israel next week, according to an administration official who wasn’t authorized to speak for attribution. The stop will be his fifth trip there since becoming the top U.S. diplomat early this year.
In his speech, Kerry said the present moment may provide the best chance for an agreement as he, like U.S. officials before him, tries to nudge the two sides toward a peace deal. Israeli and Palestinian leaders haven’t engaged in direct talks since 2010.
“What happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades,” he said. “We’re running out of time, we’re running out of possibilities. Let’s be clear, if we do not succeed now -- and I know I’m raising the stakes -- we may not get another chance.”
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today he agreed with Kerry’s assessment.
“I share entirely the analysis made by Secretary Kerry yesterday night when he said this is the best time and maybe the last time for the state of Israel to engage in a serious dialogue with the Palestinians,” Olmert said in remarks at the Wilson Center, a Washington policy group.
The former premier also suggested the White House could do more to support the push for Israeli-Palestinian talks, saying he hopes Kerry “will be successful in mobilizing the support, the more active support of the president on a daily basis.”
In his remarks yesterday, Kerry expressed understanding for Israelis who think that protests across the Arab world make it too difficult a time to negotiate a settlement. Still, he expressed impatience for “cynicism” -- which he said “has never solved anything” -- and asserted that the region’s upheaval presented an opportunity.
“The dawn of a new era in the region is exactly the kind of time to recast Israel’s relationships, to change the narrative with a new generation that is starting to make its voice heard,” he said.
Before his speech, Kerry told reporters that he might decide to “push a little bit” on both sides if he sensed momentum was flagging in his efforts to get the parties back to talks. The two groups are “seriously weighing the choices they have in front of them,” he said.
Kerry asked Israelis to imagine the situation if the Palestinian Authority fails, its security forces dissolve and the West Bank economy implodes.
“The failure of the modern Palestinian leadership could very well invite the rise of the very thing we want to avoid, the same extremism in the West Bank that we have seen in Gaza or from southern Lebanon,” Kerry said.
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