U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Friday to take “hard decisions” to revive the Middle East peace process.
“We’re getting toward a time now when hard decisions need to be made,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv at the end of his fourth visit to the region since he took office in February.
Kerry has been pressing Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks that broke down in September 2010.
Meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank and Israel’s Premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday, Kerry admitted there was skepticism and cynicism about his bid to broker new talks.
“I know this region well enough to know there is skepticism, in some quarters there is cynicism, and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment,” he said.
But he insisted: “It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient, but detailed and tenacious, that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities for peace.”
And in a powerful message to Palestinians, who are used to just seeing American motorcades sweep by into Abbas’s high-walled headquarters compound, Kerry went for a stroll along a Ramallah street.
Despite public pronouncements of support, there is growing frustration that there has been little sign of a shift in the long-held positions of the two sides.
Complicating efforts is the new Israeli government, which has moved more towards the right and includes some ministers who oppose a two-state solution.
Meanwhile, Kerry slammed Iran on Friday for it’s barring of would-be candidates for a presidential election next month.
“I cannot think of anyone in the world... who would not be amazed by a process in which an unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified... hundreds of potential candidates according to vague criteria,” he said at a news conference in Tel Aviv.