Kerry Plans Mideast Return After Pause

YERUSHALAYIM -

U.S. President Barack Obama said recently it was time for a “pause” in Mideast peace talks, and aides to Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that the pause would likely last several months, The Jerusalem Post reported.

After that, Kerry will resume his efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the table.

The aide predicted that Israeli and Palestinian officials will be forced to resume talks by the long-term need for a two-state solution.

“It’s a matter of time before they all come back and want to have negotiations,” he said.

As much as both sides have bemoaned the collapse of peace talks, it would be an understatement to say that not everyone would welcome Kerry’s return.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, for one, charged that the “apartheid” gaffe, was only one in a series of ill-considered and damaging remarks that call into question the Obama administration’s “ability to act as an honest broker.”

“Time and again, Secretary Kerry’s erroneous declarations have come dangerously close to suggesting moral equivalency between Israel and its adversaries,” wrote Danon in a piece in Politico.

Kerry’s remark in February that the risks of failed peace talks were high for Israel because “people are talking about boycott” was “another veiled threat at Israel” that “attempted to scare the Israeli public into capitulation,” Danon said.

While the U.S. remains committed to resolving the Mideast conflict, some think it may be over-committed.

Kerry has invested so much in the negotiations, so much of his prestige is tied up in it, that admitting failure could undermine his position in other areas of the world, notably the Ukraine.

Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. State Department peace negotiator now at the Wilson Center in Washington, told Reuters of the additional danger that the Israelis and Palestinians will use Kerry.

He said both sides appear unwilling to make the difficult compromises needed for a final settlement.

“If, in fact, there is no real traction on the substance, he [Kerry] starts to become part of the political furniture for the Israelis and Palestinians,” Miller said. “They start to take him for granted and they start to use his presence.”

Meanwhile, there was no pause in mutual recriminations on Tuesday at a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor pinned responsibility for the suspension of peace negotiations on the Palestinians.

“The Palestinians pledge dialogue while fomenting hatred,” Prosor told the council. “They promise tolerance while celebrating terrorists. And they make commitments almost as quickly as they break them.”

Prosor accused the Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of abandoning a chance to “tango with Israel” in favor of “waltzing off with Hamas.”

Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour countered by blaming Israel.

“Israel has maintained its rejectionist stance and persisted with its grave breaches, constantly reaffirming its role as occupier and oppressor, not as peacemaker,” Mansour told the council. “Once again, Israel has thwarted peace efforts.”

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council Washington will continue to support negotiations between the two sides.

“We have clearly reached a difficult moment, but we continue to believe that there is only one real viable solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: two states living side by side in peace and security,” she said. “If the parties are willing to go down the path — this path — we will be there to support them.”