Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday accused the Palestinians of creating “artificial crises” as he met with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Netanyahu made the remarks at the start of a meeting with Kerry that lasted nearly three hours and came after Palestine threatened to bolt the talks over a fresh row about settlements. Kerry arrived in Israel late on Tuesday as rumors swirled that the US-brokered peace talks were on the brink of collapse.
“I am concerned about [the talks’] progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitements, continuing to create artificial crises, continuing to ... run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace,” Netanyahu said in remarks to reporters. “I hope your [Kerry’s] visit will help steer them back to a place where we could achieve the historical peace that we seek.”
However, Kerry sought to calm the situation, pleading for patience.
“We are three months into this negotiation ... there are always difficulties, always tensions,” Kerry said. “We need the space to negotiate privately, secretly, quietly.”
Although Kerry appears to be sticking to the ambitious nine-month timetable for reaching an agreement, he was careful to hedge his bets about the outcome.
After meeting Netanyahu, Kerry left for Bethlehem to attend an economic event before meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Later, he was to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres, then hold a second session with Netanyahu over dinner, officials said.
Just before Kerry’s arrival, a meeting between the negotiators in Jerusalem broke down over recent settlement moves, with Israel advancing plans for about 3,700 new settler homes in the past week.
Palestine has been outraged by Israeli claims that the settlement announcements were the result of tacit “understandings” between the two sides linked to the release last week of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
In a symbolic gesture, Kerry’s first stop was to visit the Tel Aviv square where former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down 18 years ago by a right-wing Israeli opposed to the peace talks.
Speaking in Rabin Square, Kerry sent a clear message to Israeli leaders, urging them to seek peace “with the same determination prime minister Rabin showed.”