Kerry Working 'Quietly' to Restart Mideast Peace Process

by Scott Stearns

October 28, 2014

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he is working quietly to restart an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Kerry is facing many of the same challenges that contributed to the collapse of talks earlier this year, including new Israeli settlements.

It is not a promising time for new peace talks, with clashes over Israeli soldiers killing a Palestinian-American in the West Bank and new Israeli settlements planned for East Jerusalem following 50 days of fighting in Gaza.

With a status quo he says is unsustainable, Secretary Kerry says the Obama administration is trying to head-off the challenges of further deterioration.

It is important to try to find a way to negotiate. But I think we're best when we try to work quietly at that and that's what we are doing now," said Kerry.

Finding a way to negotiate faces long-standing obstacles of land and the security of the people who live there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says settlements are part of what Israel has done for 50 years.

It is also clear to the Palestinians that these places will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future arrangement," said Netanyahu.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says settlements are illegitimate.

"God willing, this occupation will end and there will be an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital," said Hamdallah.

Its a dispute that further entrenches both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, says American University professor Guy Ziv.

What were seeing are two leaders who are generally weak and risk-averse and are catering to their domestic constituencies, and, I would add, their hardline domestic constituencies," said Ziv.

Israel is "actively undermining" the Palestinian Authority and its coalition with Hamas, says former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli.

It speaks more to the state of Palestinian politics of which Mahmoud Abbas is a symbol but not the cause. And that is a very divided body politic between those who still believe in the armed resistance and those who believe in peaceful coexistence and accommodation," said Ereli.

Neither side shows much enthusiasm about a return to a U.S.-led peace process.

Secretary Kerry can not want these talks more than the parties themselves. And I think that that is what led to the talks collapse in the last go-around. I dont expect the talks to be resumed any time soon," said Ziv.

Prospects further dimmed by Egypt postponing talks on terms of the Gaza cease-fire after imposing a three-month state of emergency in parts of North Sinai following militant attacks that killed at least 33 Egyptian security personnel.