Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday in Jerusalem. Several hours later, the prime minister was set to meet with British Foreign Minister William Hague and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was in Israel on a private trip. Netanyahu was expected to discuss with the various officials the ongoing tensions on Israel's border with Syria in the Golan Heights.
As they started their meeting, Kerry praised Netanyahu for his "seriousness" in looking at ways to return to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, after the prime minister said that "above all, what we want to do is to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians."
Kerry made a brief statement on the Syrian conflict, saying, "The incredible destabilization of Syria is spilling over into Lebanon, into Jordan, and has an impact obviously on Israel."
"S-300 missiles coming from Russia or other countries, from Iran, missiles are destabilizing to the region," Kerry said, referring to the recent sale of Russian surface-to-air missiles to Syria.
"The United States is committed, not only in its defense of Israel, but in its concerns for the region to try to address this issue."
Netanyahu said the conversation would touch on concerns about Iran and Syria, "but above all what we want to do is restart the peace talks with the Palestinians."
He said both parties wanted the negotiations to begin anew.
Kerry travels later Thursday to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Although Kerry's trip was ostensibly centered around efforts to jumpstart the static peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Kerry, like the prime minister, is occupied with changes in Syria and the dangers that have developed as a result. On Wednesday, Kerry said that thousands of Hezbollah fighters were battling Syrian rebels alongside Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. At a press conference in Jordan, he warned that Hezbollah's engagement was liable to drag Lebanon into the Syrian war.
Earlier, Kerry said the U.S. and other nations were ready to boost support of the Syrian rebels if Damascus did not show willingness to begin discussing with the opposition a political settlement to end the crisis in Syria. The British foreign minister was also involved in the matter, and said that only Assad's ousting would lead to stability in Syrian.
Meanwhile, last week's visit by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, along with German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger's trip to Israel this week, indicated that Israel may be playing an influential role in European diplomacy: Germany has apparently decided to support designating Lebanese Hezbollah, a dominant player in Syria, as a terrorist organization.
Adding Hezbollah to the EU's blacklist was a diplomatic priority of Netanyahu and of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, especially after a bus bombing in Bulgaria claimed the lives of five Israelis last year. Still, European countries such as France and Germany refused to blacklist the group, fearing the move could add fuel to the fire in Syria.
The German intelligence services had also believed that Assad was fast on his way out. It appears that the German assessment may have changed, and Germany believes that Assad's forces could hold out against rebel forces for some time.
The EU was scheduled to discuss adding Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations at some point within the next two weeks, after attempts to do so over the past few years failed. The U.K. will lead the group of nations supporting the move. London only recently began to support blacklisting Lebanese Hezbollah, mostly because the group was found to be responsible in the Bulgaria bombing.
If the motion is approved, the EU will start slapping sanctions on the Lebanese group, freezing assets and restricting Hezbollah activists' freedom of movement.