The restarted Mideast peace talks that began with a concession from Israel get underway after an iftar dinner at the State Department tonight.
President Obama called the meeting between negotiating teams “a promising step forward, though hard work and hard choices remain ahead.”
“During my March visit to the region, I experienced first-hand the profound desire for peace among both Israelis and Palestinians, which reinforced my belief that peace is both possible and necessary. I deeply appreciate Secretary Kerry’s tireless work with the parties to develop a common basis for resuming direct talks, and commend both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas for their leadership in coming to the table,” Obama said in a statement.
“The most difficult work of these negotiations is ahead, and I am hopeful that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with sustained focus and determination. The United States stands ready to support them throughout these negotiations, with the goal of achieving two states, living side by side in peace and security.”
The talks got green-lighted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision, approved by a divided cabinet, to free 104 Palestinian prisoners.
“This moment is not easy for me. It is not easy for the ministers. It is not easy especially for the families, the bereaved families, whose heart I understand,” Netanyahu said yesterday. “But there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the country and this is one of those moments.”
Haaretz reported that the released Palestinians are responsible for the deaths of 55 civilians, 15 soldiers, one female tourist and dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.
At the State Department today, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed the new momentum “began with President Obama’s historic trip to Israel and Ramallah in March of this year.”
“And without his commitment, without his conversations there, and without his engagement in this initiative, we would not be here today. The President charged me directly with the responsibility to explore fully the possibility of resuming talks,” Kerry said. “And in our meetings with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, he conveyed his expectations for this process.”
Kerry saluted “both” leaders “for their willingness to make difficult decisions.”
“Going forward, it’s no secret that this is a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time. It’s no secret, therefore, that many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional, and symbolic issues. I think reasonable compromises has to be a keystone of all of this effort. I know the negotiations are going to be tough, but I also know that the consequences of not trying could be worse,” he said.