U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas twice this weekend, as part of his efforts to revive the peace process, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported Saturday.
Abbas reportedly told Kerry that it is crucial that Israel releases prisoners and stops settlement activities.
Last week, Kerry unveiled a $4 billion U.S. plan to boost the Palestinian economy, but the announcement was met with a cool response, as an adviser to Abbas told the press that the leadership would “not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits.”
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Almalki estimated Friday that Kerry would fail to achieve a breakthrough before June 7 as Kerry had wanted.
Political advisor to the PA Chairman, Nimer Hamad, said that Kerry asked for the extension to complete his efforts to revive the peace process, a task that was to be completed by the end of thwe coming week.
PLO officials said last week that Kerry has been pushing Abbas to return to negotiations without an Israeli commitment to stop settlement construction, and emphasized that it is inconsistent with the demands of the Palestinian leadership.
On Friday, DOS Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that Kerry had spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu Thursday, and raise the issue of settlement expansion—which, in reality, come down to 300 residential units in East Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods of Ramot and Gilo. By then, Kerry had only spoken once to Abbas.
Psaki said that the State Dept. feels that “these activities are counterproductive to the cause of peace. They’re not constructive.”
Last week, the EU’s Lady Catherine Ashton called on the Israeli Government to reverse completely its decision on the new units in East Jerusalem. What a way to break the hearts of 300 Israelis who had one the Housing Ministry’s lottery for those units!
A reporter asked about the report in Yedioth Ahronoth, that Kerry submitted a proposal to the Israelis whereby they can keep parts of the Jordan Valley.
Psaki warned against reporting “those reports that suggest there’s been an American proposal put on the table. From the beginning, this has always been a case where the ball is in the court of the Israeli and the Palestinian people. The Secretary’s obviously very committed to this. He feels it’s important for regional stability. There are many world and global powers who are very committed to this, but it is ultimately up to them to make tough choices.”