Secretary of State John Kerry is doing a victory lap tonight, announcing “an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
Kerry wouldn’t talk about any of the details at his press conference in Amman, Jordan, after meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, but that naturally didn’t stop him from making a lengthy statement while calling the agreement “a significant and welcome step forward.”
“Any speculation or reports you may read in the media or elsewhere or here in the press are conjecture. They are not based on fact because the people who know the facts are not talking about them. The parties have agreed that I will be the only one making further comments about this,” he said.
“If everything goes as expected, Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, Minister Livni, and Isaac Molho will be joining me in Washington to begin initial talks within the next week or so, and a further announcement will be made by all of us at that time.”
Reaching a two-state solution has been a priority of President Obama. Kerry thanked Jordan and the Arab League in a speech that morphed into somewhat of an Oscar acceptance.
“And then there are many, many others who have contributed, many other leaders around the world, all of whom have visited here and pushed and advocated and encouraged the notion that these talks could take place. There are too many to list, but they know who they are and we are very, very grateful,” he said. “It will take their ongoing effort in order to be able to have any chance of making these talks the kind of success they ought to be.”
And more Kerry on the talks he wasn’t supposed to talk about too much:
I think all of us know that candid, private conversations are the very best way to preserve the time and the space for progress and understanding when you face difficult, complicated issues such as Middle East peace. The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private. Everyone knows that this is not easy. If it were, it would’ve happened a long time ago. And no one believes that the longstanding differences between the parties can be resolved overnight or just wiped away.
We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful. I’m hopeful because of the courageous leadership shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction. We wouldn’t be standing here tonight if they hadn’t made the choices.
I’m most hopeful because of the positive steps that Israelis themselves and Palestinians are taking on the ground and the promise that those steps represent about the possibilities of the future. The path to resolution of this longstanding conflict in this critical corner of the world, that path is not about fate. It’s about choices, choices that people can make. And this is not up to chance. It’s up to the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and no one else.
So knowing that the road ahead will be difficult and the challenges that the parties face are daunting, we will call on everybody to act in the best of faith and push forward. The representatives of two proud people today have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling and that the daunting challenges that we face are worth tackling. So they have courageously recognized that in order for Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side in peace and security, they must begin by sitting at the table together in direct talks.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he was “encouraged” by today’s announcement and gave the former committee chairman “praise for his tireless efforts to bring the parties together.”
“Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a vital U.S. national security concern, it can only happen through face-to-face direct negotiations, and two states for two people living side by side in peace and security remains the only formula,” Menendez said. “I also strongly believe that this is the best chance for the Palestinians to fulfill their aspirations by negotiating with Israel and resuming the journey to achieving Arab-Israeli peace.”
Pro-Palestinian J Street lauded Kerry for creating a “historic opportunity which must not be missed.”
“Secretary Kerry deserves the recognition of the entire world for his determination and creativity in achieving this breakthrough. We are confident he will remain fully engaged as the parties get down to negotiating. We thank President Obama for making this issue a top foreign policy priority of his second term,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.