After weekend of "very intensive" talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says, "We're not there yet, but we're making progress" • Sen. John McCain: Netanyahu has "serious concerns" about parts of Kerry's proposals.
Shlomo Cesana, Daniel Siryoti, Yori Yalon, Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boards his plane to fly from Israel to Jordan on Sunday
Photo credit: AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued his efforts over the weekend to achieve a "framework agreement" between Israel and the Palestinians. While such an agreement has yet to be reached, Kerry remains optimistic.
"We're not there yet, but we are making progress," Kerry said in Ramallah on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "We are beginning to flesh out the toughest hurdles yet to be overcome."
Kerry met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem twice over the weekend. On Friday, Kerry also met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
On Sunday morning, Kerry departed Israel for Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where he was to brief leaders on the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Kerry was expected to return to Israel on Sunday night for further meetings.
"This has been a productive couple of days," Kerry told reporters on Sunday before his plane took off from Israel. "We have had very positive -- but I have to say very serious, very intensive -- conversations."
Kerry said all the major issues in the conflict -- borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem -- were being discussed.
"The path is becoming clearer," Kerry said. "The puzzle is becoming more defined. And it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are. But I cannot tell you when, particularly, the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished."
In a joint press conference with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Saturday in Ramallah, Kerry said, "I am confident that the talks we’ve had in the last two days have already fleshed out and even resolved certain kinds of issues and presented new opportunities for others. That’s the name of this game. It’s a tough process, step by step, day by day."
Netanyahu met this weekend in Jerusalem with visiting American senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Barrasso. The senators also met with President Shimon Peres.
McCain said Netanyahu had "serious concerns" about parts of Kerry's proposals on the peace negotiations. McCain said he shared Netanyahu's concerns about whether some aspects of Kerry's proposals were enforceable and viable options that would not jeopardize Israel's security.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials are not particularly optimistic about peace negotiations. Palestinian officials told Israel Hayom that "Abbas is inclined toward not accepting the framework agreement presented by Kerry."
Erekat said the gaps between the Palestinians and Israel were "only widening" and he repeated the claim that "Israel plans to assassinate Abbas."
An anonymous Palestinian official said Kerry asked Abbas over the weekend to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, The Associated Press reported. The official said Abbas opposes the idea out of concerns it would hurt the right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, but that talks are continuing.
At a cultural event on Saturday, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that, at the next cabinet meeting, he would "present new and disturbing findings regarding the level of [Palestinian] incitement. Abbas wants a state, but without mutual recognition."