Peace talks threatened by Palestinian incitement, Netanyahu tells Kerry


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian “incitement” and “artificial crises” are threatening progress in renewed peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu and Kerry addressed each other briefly on Wednesday in the presence of reporters before holding a private session. Netanyahu reiterated that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians.

“Because of your efforts, we launched several months ago an initiative to seek a peaceful agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” the Israeli leader said. “We agreed three months ago on certain terms. We stand by those terms. We abide scrupulously by the terms of the agreement and the understanding on which we launched the negotiations.

“I hope that your visit will help steer them back to a place where we could achieve the historical peace that we seek and that our people deserve,” he said.

It was the first sign from a leader that the talks are not going well. Generally the sides have maintained the silence that Kerry requested when he relaunched talks over the summer.

“There are always difficulties, always tensions,” Kerry said of the peace talks. “I’m very confident of our ability to work through them.”

Both leaders also addressed the issue of Iran, saying the end result to the negotiations with the Islamic Republic must be that it has no capacity to produce a weapon of mass destruction.

Kerry and Netanyahu are scheduled to have a working dinner on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

Also Wednesday, Kerry met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, where he announced that the United States would give an additional $75 million in aid to the Palestinians to create jobs and improve infrastructure. That would bring the total of U.S. aid to the Palestinians for infrastructure to $100 million.

Following the meeting with Abbas, Kerry reiterated U.S. opposition to Jewish settlements.

“We consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate. And I want to make it extremely clear that at no time did the Palestinians in any way agree, as a matter of going back to the talks, that they somehow condone or accept the settlements,” Kerry said in Bethlehem.

He also said Abbas “is serious about these talks” and “understands that we require compromise by all the parties. And he has restated to me today his own willingness to compromise in an effort to find a fair and just peace.”

Kerry and Abbas are scheduled to meet again on Thursday in Jordan.

The meetings come amid reports in the Israeli media, citing unnamed Palestinian officials, that the last meeting on Tuesday between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators ended in the sides shouting at each other and threatening to halt further sessions.

Kerry on Tuesday evening attended a memorial for assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, and laid a wreath at the site where he was shot.

“He dared to take the risks for peace because he believed not just that it was important for the sake of peace, but that it was vital for the security and future of Israel, and of the region,” he said of Rabin at the memorial.

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