Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to launch formal peace talks within the next two weeks in hopes of reaching a deal over the next nine months for a two-state solution in the heart of the Middle East.
Kerry laid out the timeline after Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in Washington Monday evening and Tuesday morning for initial discussions, laying the foundation for contentious negotiations about long-contested borders between the bitter rivals. Kerry called it a “new moment of possibility” while acknowledging the many barriers that remain to reaching a long-elusive pact.
Kerry said that the next set of negotiations would take place either in Israel or the Palestinian territories.
Earlier Tuesday, President Obama hosted the Israel and Palestinian negotiators at the White House, but his surrogates declined to get into the details of the meeting. Obama administration officials are being careful not to put preconditions on the talks.
“All sides agree that it would be most conducive to this process to not read out details of meetings,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. “The president used this opportunity to convey his appreciation to both sides for the leadership and courage they have shown in coming to the table, and to directly express his personal support for final-status negotiation.”
Most importantly, Israeli and Palestinian officials have to find common ground on what to do with Jewish settlements in the West Bank. And the Palestinians will continue to press Israel to withdraw to its 1967 boundaries, something that has been a non-starter in previous talks.
Kerry on Monday tapped former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk to lead American efforts to bring the two camps together, a goal Indyk was unable to achieve under former President Bill Clinton. The White House has mostly stayed out of the debate, opting instead to let the State Department handle the negotiations.