Kerry Extends Israel Trip

Kerry Extends Israel Trip

 By Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times 

29.06.13
via The New York Times [click here for original article]
 
JERUSALEM — In a hectic day of shuttle diplomacy with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders in two capitals, Secretary of State John Kerry struggled on Saturday to close a deal to revive dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
 
By the end of the day, however, it remained unclear to what extent Mr. Kerry had been able to narrow the gap between the two sides during three days of high-level meetings in Jordan and Israel.
 
Even as a dinner meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel dragged into the early hours of Sunday, the Americans signaled that Mr. Kerry would be traveling to Ramallah, West Bank, later in the day to meet again with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, whom Mr. Kerry has already met with twice in Amman, Jordan, in recent days.
 
 
Mr. Kerry had been scheduled to fly on Sunday to a long-planned meeting of foreign ministers in Brunei, and as Sunday arrived there was no announcement that his departure would be extended yet again.
 
From the start, Mr. Kerry acknowledged that getting Israeli-Palestinian talks started would be a formidable undertaking. But he has resolutely insisted that it is doable — so much so that he has traveled between Jordan and Israel by motorcade, Jordanian helicopter and his own American government plane pursuing a formula that could lead to the first formal negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders since 2010.
 
Mr. Kerry’s trip had appeared to take a dramatic turn on Saturday when he ripped up his itinerary and canceled a news conference and a trip that day to the United Arab Emirates so he could continue his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders for another day.
 
That spurred speculation in the Israeli news media that a summit meeting among Israeli, Palestinian and American officials might be hosted by Jordan.
 
The dinner — Mr. Kerry’s third meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in three days — was all business. On the Israeli side, it also included Tzipi Livni, Israel’s minister of justice and the government’s chief negotiator on the Palestinian issue; Isaac Molho, Mr. Netanyahu’s special envoy; Yaakov Amidror, Mr. Netanyahu’s national security adviser; and Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, Mr. Netanyahu’s military secretary.
 
On the American side, Mr. Kerry was joined by Frank Lowenstein, his Middle East adviser; Jonathan Schwartz, a State Department legal expert; and John Bass, a senior aide to Mr. Kerry at the State Department.
 
But skeptics were insisting there was little reason to anticipate a breakthrough. Gilad Erdan, an Israeli government minister and member of the Likud party, asserted on Israeli television just before Mr. Kerry’s meeting with Mr. Netanyahu that the two sides were not close to resuming negotiations.
 
Mr. Kerry said early during his travels that significant headway toward resuming the peace talks needed to be made long before September, when the General Assembly resumes its debate on the Middle East.
 
Mr. Kerry has frequently said that time is the enemy, arguing that attitudes could harden and that unexpected developments could complicate painstaking efforts to lay the basis for progress at the negotiating table.
 
Even before Mr. Kerry left on this trip to the Middle East, his fifth, American officials were signaling that he was prepared to make a sixth if needed.
 
On Saturday, Mr. Kerry had little to say as he went from meeting to meeting. Asked if he was making any progress as his Amman meeting with Mr. Abbas got under way, Mr. Kerry replied, “Working hard.”