Kerry is trying to restart negotiationsthat have been mostly frozen for more than four years, but neither side has dropped objections or preconditions that have kept them away from the table.
He suggested that he favors a broad peace deal but gave few specifics. A comprehensive 2002 Arab League peace offer is an important element of the new strategy, he said, but added that it is up to Israel and the Palestinians to choose the basis for their talks.
“This effort is not just about getting the parties back into direct negotiations,” Kerry said as he concluded three days of back-and-forth discussions that evoked the shuttle diplomacy of an earlier era. “It’s about getting everybody into the best position to succeed.”
Negotiations would be based on the principle that the Palestinians deserve their own state alongside Israel, a goal that Kerry and others have said is at risk.
Standing next to Kerry on Tuesday, Netanyahu pledged support for negotiations and for economic development initiatives in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.
“I’m 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,” the prime minister said before his second meeting with Kerry in as many days.
Kerry’s shuttle began Sunday night with a lengthy discussion of Palestinian economic woes with President Mahmoud Abbas, who has long said the old Arab peace initiative should be the foundation for any new talks. The deal, reaffirmed by Arabs in 2007 but never approved by Israel, would trade a blanket Arab peace accord with Israel for Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Kerry denied that he has requested changes to the Arab League document, as Palestinian officials have said. He appeared frustrated by what he called “partisan leaks” about the effort and said the details will remain secret for now.
That left little clarity about how a new round of talks might be structured or how negotiators might attempt to resolve major issues such as the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Kerry said he is trying to help both sides prepare for what he knows will be difficult discussions. He is laying the groundwork, he said, to “bring people to the table with a clear understanding of what we are beginning on, of what we’re trying to do and of where we want to wind up.”
As a first step, Kerry said, all sides agreed to new economic investment programs for the West Bank.
Other details or any return visit, he said, will have to wait “until we get our homework done,” after what he called forward-looking separate sessions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.