US Secretary of State John Kerry has left Israel feeling optimistic – but the Palestinians less so - after a three-day shuttle diplomacy visit.
Mr Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas separately to discuss peace process negotiations expected to take at least three months. Mr Kerry has told sources that he and Mr Netanyahu agreed "to do our homework over the course of the next weeks… with a view to seeing how we can really pull all of the pieces together and make some progress."
Before meeting with Mr Kerry yesterday, Mr Netanyahu said that he was "determined not only to resume the peace process with the Palestinians, but to make a serious effort to end this conflict once and for all".
According to sources, Mr Netanyahu has refused to freeze settlement expansion as requested by the Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu has also laid out Israel’s preconditions for a peace agreement – a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, a halt to unilateral initiatives in the international criminal court and for the West Bank Palestinian Authority to severe ties with Hamas.
According to Haaretz, Palestinian officials were less impressed by their meetings with the secretary of state. “The situation is quite clear. The Palestinians have stated that renewed negotiations must be based on a clear formula which will include the determination of Palestine’s borders and the release of prisoners. As long as Israel does not agree to this, we cannot talk of discussions that will lead to a settlement of the conflict," said one senior Palestinian official.
The Iranian nuclear programme was also a topic on the agenda during Mr Kerry’s visit.