A senior Israeli diplomatic official in Jerusalem has told Israel Hayom that he "refused to be moved" by a Reuters report on Monday that quoted a senior U.S. official as saying the U.S. government would abandon its efforts to advance the peace process if it determined that Israel and the Palestinians were not serious about the matter.
On Monday, the U.S. official told Reuters, "There are too many things going on in the world ... You could bang your head on this for years and years and years."
According to the Israeli official, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has not presented a formal peace plan, but rather has offered a number of proposals to renew negotiations between the sides. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy Itzhak Molcho, is responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians, met with Kerry in Washington on Monday.
Kerry plans to visit the Middle East again next week, in what will be his fifth trip to the region since becoming secretary of state in February. Expected stops on the trip include Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. During a trip to the region last month, Kerry said, "We are reaching the time where leaders need to make hard decisions."
Speaking Monday after a meeting with Polish Foreign Radek Sikorski in Washington, Kerry said he would need to make a judgment at some point on whether the process is moving too slowly but that he was "confident about the energy and effort that is going into thinking through the road ahead."
Israel has repeatedly said it is ready to return to peace talks, but that the preconditions demanded by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are thwarting the renewal of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
On Monday, Abbas told Saudi newspaper Al-Watan that the PA "would not return to negotiations" unless Israel agreed to a settlement freeze and accepted a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. He said Israeli intransigence on this issue was preventing the diplomatic process from moving forward. The PA president told Al-Watan he was committed to east Jerusalem -- captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War -- as the future capital of the Palestinian state, and that there was "no room to compromise" on this.
In a speech at an American Jewish Committee conference in Washington on Monday, Kerry talked about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying that the next few days will determine what happens in the future.
"What happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades. We're running out of time. We're running out of possibilities. And let's be clear: If we do not succeed now -- and I know I'm raising those stakes -- but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance. So we can't let the disappointments of the past hold the future prisoner. We can't let the absence of peace become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The absence of peace is perpetual conflict," Kerry said.
Kerry expressed an understanding of the disappointment felt by both sides about past failed peace efforts, but said that "the status quo is simply not sustainable."
"Cynicism has never solved anything," Kerry said. "It has never given birth to a state, and it won't."
Kerry said the only realistic way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a two-state solution.
"My many conversations have led me to believe that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas can be partners in peace," Kerry said. Kerry praised Netanyahu as the "man who I believe can lead Israel into a new era that we very much want to see."
On the security challenges Israel would face as part of a potential peace deal with the Palestinians, Kerry said, "Now, some are wary because of Israel's experience following the withdrawal from Gaza and Lebanon. You have no idea how many times I hear people say, 'We withdrew from Lebanon, we withdrew from Gaza, and what did we get? We got rockets.' Well, folks, it's worth remembering these withdrawals were unilateral. They were not part of a negotiated peace treaty that included strong guarantees for Israel's security."
Security, according to Kerry, means "more than simply the absence of war. For Israel, a nation with history and challenges unlike any other, it means ... being secure in its future as a Jewish state, but also a democratic state, also an economically thriving state. Security for Israel means freedom from pernicious attacks on its legitimacy from its neighbors or on the world stage. Security for Israel grows with the empowerment of moderates in the West Bank and Gaza and throughout the region so that extremists are isolated rather than promoted and empowered. And lasting security for Israel requires regional stability and open markets that will let Israelis concentrate on building up their businesses and not just their defenses."
Kerry said the best way to achieve this would be a peace agreement that results "in a strong, secure Israel that lives peacefully alongside a viable Palestinian state."
Also speaking at the AJC conference, Livni said she was "not willing to give up on peace."
Livni added that Israel's "lack of legitimacy affects its ability to defend itself against terror. Two states for two peoples is a clear Israeli interest. I am not willing to accept the end of Zionism. We must push, promote, the idea of two states for two people."