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POLITICS: PennAve

John Kerry tries to regroup after Israel suspends peace talks

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Politics,John Kerry,Israel,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Benjamin Netanyahu,Palestinians,Mahmoud Abbas

A State Department spokeswoman acknowledged “some bumps in the road” but said the U.S. remains committed to peace talks led by Secretary of State John Kerry after Israelis pulled out of them indefinitely.

The Israeli government on Thursday said they had suspended the negotiations in retaliation for a unity pact between the Palestinian leadership and the Islamist Hamas movement, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

The Israeli move came after a five-hour meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet. Afterward, Netanyahu called the Palestinian reconciliation deal a "giant leap backwards."

"The pact with Hamas kills peace," Netanyahu said.

“I think it's important to remember, as from the beginning of this process, that it's always been up to the parties to decide whether to pursue a path to peace,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing Thursday.

“There have been unhelpful steps taken by both parties. … Still, this process needs to work its way through, and we have been in touch with both parties."

Kerry reached out to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to express his disappointment with the reconciliation agreement.

Kerry in a phone call told Abbas that any Palestinian government should maintain the principles that Abbas has previously advocated, including a commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel and acceptance of previous commitments between the two parties, Psaki said.

Psaki noted that Kerry plans to speak to Netanyahu later today.

She said both sides must decided if they are committed to the peace talks.

“We're still making the effort because there has been many ups and downs in the process,” she said. “We're seeking more information from both parties … and we'll see how it proceeds.”

This story is based in part on wire reports.

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Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner