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Before Kerry meeting, Netanyahu calls out Abbas on commitment to peace

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “must reject terror and embrace peace” if talks are going to succeed.

Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to reporters late Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem before meeting.

In his 10th round of meetings with Netanyahu, Kerry will present a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for the Israelis and Palestinians on the terms to be discussed for the final pact.

Netanyahu said there was doubt in Israel that the Palestinians were committed to peace in part because Abbas had not condemned a series of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets over the last week and had called the Palestinian prisoners released last week by Israel “heroes.”

“Peace means ending incitement; it means fighting terrorism and condemning terrorism; it means recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people; it means meeting Israel’s security needs; and it means being prepared to truly end the conflict once and for all,” Netanyahu said. “If we are to succeed in our joint effort, President Abbas must reject terror and embrace peace.”

The framework agreement, which also will be presented to Abbas, will deal with all core issues — borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem and mutual recognition, among others — and pull together the ideas that have been discussed in peace negotiations over the past five months.

A senior State Department official said in a briefing with reporters that it was not certain the negotiators will go public with the framework agreement.

“The benefit of going public would be in starting to shape the debate on both sides and get people used to what it is that would be required of both sides to give up and what both sides would get in the process,” the official said. “The downside of going public is that it exposes the leaders to a good deal of political opposition because these are highly controversial and complicated issues. And so they may feel that it’s too much for the traffic to bear.”

He added that it is “a little premature” to make the decision.

The official said that there are no plans yet for  Abbas and Netanyahu to meet and that it will not occur until the “appropriate time.”

Kerry told reporters on Thursday that the peace talks are a “long process, but it is not Mission Impossible.” The talks are scheduled to last nine months, ending at the close of April.

He is set to meet several times with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in Ramallah over the next three days before heading to Jordan. The secretary of state could return to Israel a week later.

 

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