Kerry bounces between Israel, Palestine, pushing for peace at breakneck pace

Secretary of State John Kerry is practicing shuttle diplomacy, traveled back and forth between Israel and Palestine and holding hours-long meetings with leaders in the hopes of restarting talks.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry, (l.), is greeted by Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator, as Kerry arrives for his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for their second meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday. Kerry continuing his rushed round of shuttle diplomacy to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

US Secretary of State John Kerry kept up his frenetic Mideast diplomacy Saturday, shuttling again between Palestinian and Israeli leaders in hopes of restarting peace talks.

Kerry met for two hours with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan in what was their second set of discussions in two days.

He planned more talks in the evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem after the two held two meetings over the past two days.

US, Israeli, and Palestinian officials have declined to disclose details of the talks.

"Working hard," is all Kerry would say when a reporter asked him before the latest Abbas meeting whether he was making progress.

Kerry, who is on a two-week swing through the Mideast and Asia, has conducted the meetings at a breakneck pace. He even cancelled a stop in Abu Dhabi because of extended discussions on the Mideast peace process.

He had a four-hour dinner meeting with Netanyahu Thursday night in Jerusalem followed by a more than two-hour lunch with Abbas on Friday in Amman at the home of the Palestinian ambassador to Jordan. Then it was back to Jerusalem for another meeting with Netanyahu and dinner with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

On Saturday morning, he boarded a helicopter to fly back to Amman to meet again with Abbas, this time at the Palestinian president's residence there.

Later Saturday, he was to return to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians, and Isaac Molho, a Netanyahu envoy.

Kerry is scheduled to leave Jerusalem on Sunday to head to Brunei for a Southeast Asia security conference.

There is deep skepticism that Kerry can get the two sides to agree on a two-state solution, something that has eluded presidents and diplomats for years. But the flurry of meetings has heightened expectations that the two sides can be convinced to at least restart talks, which broke down in 2008.

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

In the past, 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, 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 pre-conditions for talks.

Abbas made significant progress with Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, in talks in 2007 and 2008, but believes there is little point in negotiating with the current Israeli leader.

Netanyahu has adopted much tougher starting positions than Olmert, refusing to recognize Israel's pre-1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and saying east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital, is off the table. Abbas and his aides suspect Netanyahu wants to resume talks for the sake of negotiating and creating a diplomatic shield for Israel, not in order to reach an agreement.

Abbas has much to lose domestically if he drops his demands that Netanyahu either freeze settlement building or recognize the 1967 frontier as a starting point before talks can resume. Netanyahu has rejected both demands. A majority of Palestinians, disappointed after 20 years of fruitless negotiations with Israel, opposes a return to talks on Netanyahu's terms.

Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.