CCTV, December 6, 2013
By MATTHEW KALMAN, CCTV Correspondent
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has returned to the Middle East where renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have made little progress after almost two dozen meetings.
US Secretary of State John Kerry returned to the Middle East on Thursday for the eighth time this year, shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah in yet another effort to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which appear to be stalled after 20 sessions.
High on this morning’s agenda with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a security plan for the West Bank drafted by General John Allen, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan.
"Israel’s security is fundamental to these negotiations... This morning Gen Allen and I provided Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military leadership with some thoughts about that particular security challenge," said Kerry.
But Netanyahu indicated that Israel will take some convincing before making any concessions
"Israel is ready for a historic peace, and it’s a peace based on two states for two peoples. It’s a peace that Israel can and must be able to defend by itself with our own forces against any foreseeable threat," said Netanyanhu.
Despite Kerry’s public commitment, analysts say Israeli leaders feel betrayed by the Geneva deal over Iran’s nuclear program and no longer trust the United States to put Israel’s security at the top of the agenda.
"Israel is very concerned about security issues. The United States is in no position now to reassure Israel that it will protect Israeli security after what happened in Geneva. We’re talking primarily about the area of the Jordan Valley the border with Jordan. Israel is very reluctant to give up that territory because there are no international guarantees, so there’s going to be a lot of scepticism over whatever Kerry brings," said Gerald Steinberg, Bar-ilan university.
This Israeli fortified position helps them keep control over the Jordan Valley and Jericho behind me where the peace talks have been held for the last few months. And it’s precisely control of this area that has become one of the major sticking points during the peace talks. Now the United States is presenting a new security plan designed to solve precisely that problem.
In Ramallah, Kerry had to convince the equally sceptical Palestinians that Israel really is serious about helping to create a viable Palestinian state while it continues to build settlements on the West Bank. Kerry remained optimistic but in a gesture that spoke louder than words, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not emerge to speak to reporters after the meeting.
"I don’t think people should fool themselves. There is no peace talks. There are meetings searching for formulas and the real negotiations are between Israelis and Israeli negotiators on what the best formula for security and economy and for containment of the Palestinians. Everybody knows that Mr Netanyahu is not going to deliver, everybody is expecting to maintain the status quo as is," said Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of Int'l Affairs.
Despite the scepticism on both sides, Kerry hopes that the talks in Jericho can dissipate the dark clouds of conflict that have hung over this region for generations.