Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the United States was not interested in supporting a “open-ended effort” to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s reality-check time,” Kerry was quoted as saying in the Washington Post.
The remarks were his most pessimistic yet regarding the nearly year-old peace talks that are on the verge of collapse.
“There are limits in the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward,” the secretary said.
It was not so long ago that Kerry took a more optimistic approach to the talks. When the negotiations opened last year, Kerry was sure a deal could be reached.
"When somebody tells you that Israelis and Palestinians cannot find common ground or address the issues that divide them, don't believe them," Kerry said in a July CNN story. "While I understand the skepticism, I don't share it and I don't think we have time for it.”
The goal of the talks has been to create an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel with a peace treaty between the two sides. The negotiations for the ambitious goal began to break down when Israel broke a promise to release 104 Palestinian prisoners. Palestinians then enraged Israel by signing treaties with the United Nations that would protect the rights of civilians in times of war and conflict.
“Since Israel failed to release the last group of prisoners, the State of Palestine is no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions,” the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement, quoted in the the Washington Post.
Israeli officials said the release of the prisoners was dependent on “sustained, uninterrupted negotiations.” According to Israelis the Palestinians broke that deal by seeking outside help from the U.N.
Kerry’s remarks were most likely intended to test the will of leaders on both sides and see if they could put differences aside to continue the talks.
"It is regrettable that in the last few days both sides have taken steps that are not helpful and that's evident to everybody,” Kerry said in an Associated Press story.
It may have worked. The Washington Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel was willing to continue talks.
“We are ready to continue the talks but not at any price,” he said.
Netanyahu said Israel would continue the talks and deal separately with the Palestinians seeking aid from the United Nations.