JERUSALEM -- U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry began a trip to Israel Tuesday evening with a visit to Tel Aviv, where he offered reassurances about renewed peace talks ahead of separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Peace "is possible ... and can be achieved," Kerry said at the memorial to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, where he laid a wreath the day after the 18th anniversary of the leader's assassination at the hands of a Jewish extremist.
Kerry promised that the United States would be with Israel "every step of the way" toward achieving an accord that ensures the country's security, and he urged Israelis to strive for "a just, appropriate and fair peace."
Bereaved families protesting Israel's release of Palestinian prisoners as part of the peace talks could be heard booing in the background during the short ceremony attended by Rabin's daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, and other family members, as well as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
Kerry is to meet Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
Despite vocal criticism of the peace talks from Israeli and Palestinian politicians, negotiating teams met in Jerusalem on Tuesday, a few hours before Kerry's arrival. Israeli media reported that the parties assured Kerry they were committed to holding direct talks for the agreed-on duration of nine months.
Kerry earlier this year brokered the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a permanent peace deal. Talks resumed in July after a three-year deadlock.
Citing American and Palestinian sources, Israeli lawmaker Zehava Galon said Monday that the U.S. was planning to submit its own peace proposal in January if no progress was made by then. Kerry denied that in comments from Saudi Arabia.
With another round of nuclear talks between Iran and the West scheduled to begin Thursday in Geneva, Israel is keen to discuss that process with Kerry as well.