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John Kerry admits cynicism in Mideast peace push

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on May 23, admitting there was skepticism and cynicism about his efforts to broker new talks between both sides. There were no signs of any breakthrough as Kerry visited Israel for the fourth time in his four months in office to try to revive a peace process that has been moribund for more than two years. Despite public pronouncements of support from both sides, there is a growing frustration that so far there has been little to signal any shift in their long-standing positions. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land that the Palestinians want for a state. “I know this region well enough to know that there is skepticism. In some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment,” Kerry said as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posed for pictures.

Kerry said he was committed to his push, and stressed the United States placed a top priority on the security of Israel – one of the key concerns of the Israelis. “It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay out a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people but certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace.”

Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for lunch in the West Bank city of Ramallah and was to return to Jerusalem to see Israeli President Shimon Peres and have breakfast today with Netanyahu.
Before their meeting yesterday morning, Netanyahu said he wanted to restart peace talks.

“It’s something I hope the Palestinians want as well and we ought to be successful for a simple reason – when there’s a will, we’ll find a way,” Netanyahu said.

The two men discussed ways to advance peace, Kerry’s ideas for an economic plan to boost Palestinian growth and the “escalating violence” in neighboring Syria’s civil war, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters after the meeting.

Before the meeting, Israel’s top negotiator, Tzipi Livni, said Israel’s government was divided on the issue of peace with the Palestinians.

 “There are ideological differences at the heart of the government,” Livni told public radio.
 
The stalling of the peace process since September 2010 “only serves the interests of those who think that each passing day [without a peace agreement] allows them to build a new house,” she said in reference to Jewish settlement building on Palestinian territory, a key issue preventing a return to talks. “But this is not the position of the majority of Israel’s population.”

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