Kerry presses Israel over peace negotiations

Warns of return to violence if current talks fail

“The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?” said Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

AMMAN, Jordan — Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stark warning to Israel on Thursday, saying it faces international isolation and a possible explosion of violence if it does not make progress in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Kerry issued the blunt remarks in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian television channels, ensuring the message would reach its intended audience.

‘‘The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?’’ Kerry said, using the term for past Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation.


Kerry has been shuttling this week between Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan in a frantic bid to get the peace negotiations back on track amid rising public anger among Palestinians over Israeli settlement activity and among Israelis over the release of Palestinian prisoners.

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In the television interview, Kerry said a failure in the talks could be devastating.

‘‘If we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel,’’ he said. ‘‘There will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that has been taking place in an international basis,’’ he said.

If Israel cannot reach peace with the current Palestinian leadership, Kerry added, it may find itself facing a foe that is committed to violence.

Excerpts of his comments were aired on Israel’s Channel 2 TV, hours before the full interview was to be broadcast.


Kerry recorded the interview in Jerusalem early Thursday before heading to neighboring Jordan, where he tried to rally support for his peace efforts from King Abdullah II.

In Amman, Kerry also warned of a return to violence if peace efforts fail, and rejected suggestions that he scale back his ambition to forge a final settlement with an interim agreement. He said he still believed it could be done by an April 2014 target date.

‘‘What is the alternative to peace?’’ Kerry asked at a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. ‘‘Prolonged continued conflict.’’

Kerry appealed for Israelis and Palestinians to take the peace process seriously and for leaders to overcome differences that have hamstrung the talks. He acknowledged the hurdles but said he was convinced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority were committed to the negotiations.

‘‘I am pleased to say that despite difficulties, and we all understand what they are, these discussions have been productive,’’ he said.


Earlier Thursday, Kerry told Jordan’s king that his meetings had created clarity on some of the points. He did not elaborate, but he said later that there was ‘‘significant progress in our discussions about a couple of areas of concern in the panorama of concerns that exist.’’

A statement from Jordan’s Royal Palace said Abdullah, a close US ally, said final status talks involve ‘‘higher Jordanian interest,’’ mainly a common border with a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jordan-based Palestinian refugees displaced in the 1967 Mideast war, and Jerusalem, where the kingdom maintains custody over Christian and Muslim holy sites.

The king also called on the international community to help end unspecified ‘‘Israeli unilateral actions in the occupied Palestinian territories because they are illegal, illegitimate, and constitute a real obstacle to peace efforts,’’ the statement said. He was referring to Israeli government plans to build more settlements in the West Bank, the heartland of a future Palestinian state.

Kerry was to meet Abbas again Thursday night in Amman and then return to Jerusalem on Friday for a third meeting with Netanyahu in two days before continuing with his swing through the Middle East and North Africa.

Since Kerry brokered the restart of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, little progress has been made. He has been hit with complaints from both sides while working to maintain an optimistic tone.

The stalemate has prompted speculation that the United States may need to increase its involvement in the talks and present its own outline for peace — or lower expectations and pursue a more limited interim agreement.