JERUSALEM — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Jerusalem as part of ongoing efforts to revive the Middle East peace talks. His latest trip comes amid growing doubts over the effort.
Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several hours after he landed in Israel.
He said he realized that many people are skeptical that peace can be attained but noted that Israeli peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan show that peace is possible.
“The time is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make difficult decisions. We are close to that time if not at it and I think we understand the circumstances within which we are working,” he said.
Netanyahu in his welcoming remarks accused Palestinian leaders of inciting their people to attack Israelis and said this created doubt that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sincerely wants peace.
“President Abbas must lead his people away from terrorism and incitement toward reconciliation and peace," he said. "John, the people of Israel and I are prepared to make such an historic peace. But we must have a Palestinian partner who’s equally prepared to make this peace.”
Kerry is due to meet Palestinian leaders Friday.
The peace talks resumed five months ago after a three-year freeze.
Disagreements continue over many issues, most notably the borders of a future Palestinian state, the status of East Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Debate has intensified recently over proposals regarding Jewish settlements and security arrangements in Palestinian parts of the West Bank that are under the control of Israeli security forces. Israel wants security guarantees.
Abbas told a rally on the eve of Kerry's trip that Palestinians are the people most in need of security and most notably, he said, protection from attacks by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
He said, "We have made clear our rejection of any Israeli military presence in the territory of the future independent Palestinian state and our commitment to Palestinian sovereignty over all its land, water, resources, airspace, borders and crossings."
Abbas went on say that the Palestinians would like an international presence to ensure security in their territory after any peace treaty is signed. Israel has rejected this proposal.
Israel has released 78 long-time Palestinian prisoners. At the same time it has announced new construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This has angered Palestinian leaders who accuse Israel of sabotaging the peace talks and are threatening to resume their diplomatic efforts for admission to dozens of international organizations.