By Batsheva Sobelman
12:20 PM PST, January 2, 2014
JERUSALEM -- U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry arrived in Jerusalem on Thursday to begin another round of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, his 10th visit since taking office with the intent of renewing Middle East peace negotiations.
At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of their meeting, Kerry recalled comments he made at the end of one of his recent trips, that the time leaders will have to make difficult decisions was nearing. “We are close to that time, if not at it,” he said.
More than five months into the process, “it is safe to say that we know what the issues are,” Kerry said.
Kerry said he will spend the next few days working intensely with both the Israelis and Palestinians to narrow differences on a framework for future negotiations on such core issues as “borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition and the end of conflict and all claims.”
He emphasized that the ideas being discussed emerged from both sides, stressing his role was “not to impose American ideas” but rather to facilitate the parties’ own efforts.
Netanyahu welcomed Kerry’s return and his “unremitting personal efforts to advance peace” between Israel and the Palestinians. He stressed Israel’s willingness to make historic peace but questioned commitment of the Palestinian Authority, which he charged with “unabated incitement” against Israel.
The only peace that can endure is one that Israel can defend, said Netanyahu. Vowing he would “never compromise on the security of Israel” and its vital interests, Netanyahu expressed hope for building a “rock-solid foundation for security and a secure peace.”
Kerry is expected to hold separate meetings with Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the next few days.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.
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