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What expectations after the arrival of John Kerry?

john kerry articleBishop Shomali analyzes the visit of the American Secretary of State to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In fact, the U.S. Secretary of State has just completed a three-day trip (from April 7 to April 9, 2013) to explore ways to revive peace talks suspended since September 2010. What’s new?

“I think the Secretary of State, John Kerry is motivated and serious. He did not come here to travel. He seems to be aware of the need for peace in the Holy Land for the overall balance of the region,” said Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem. The visit of the head of American diplomacy came after renewed tensions and discontent in the Palestinian territories following the death of an ailing Palestinian in custody. However, the Bishop knows that “the Palestinian Authority will not in any way renew a violent uprising. A third intifada would destroy any chance of peace.” Bishop Shomali expressed the presence of a double inner tension in the country. “On one hand, he said, I expect that the efforts of John Kerry will lead to frustration, as was the case after dozens of visits by politicians before him. On the other hand, we are driven by a positive interior hope. We do not know when peace will come, but we know it will come one day. Our prayer (Christians as also non-Christians) tends toward this objective and we recognize the role of politicians as mediators.”

Two weeks after the visit of President Obama, John Kerry, for the third time in less than a month plays the card of “listening.”  Opting for a “quiet diplomacy”, he categorically stated: not to  “give in to haste.” The Palestinian president received him on Sunday in Ramallah (West Bank). It was the opportunity for Mahmoud Abbas present a of his demands to resume negotiations, namely, a freeze of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and a resumption of talks based on the 1967 borders, that is to say, before the beginning of the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel. The President of the Palestinian Authority also called for the release of the oldest Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Efforts and sacrificesjohn-kerry article2
On Monday, April 8, John Kerry said that peace was possible by respecting the “security needs of Israel” and “aspirations for a state” of the Palestinians. To do this, John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to “do their homework in the coming weeks,” said the U.S. Secretary of State. The Israeli Prime Minister for his part said “he is determined not only to resume the peace process with the Palestinians but also to make a serious effort to end the conflict once and for all.” But if Israelis and Palestinians are sticking to their positions, the slightest progress is impossible and the options of American diplomacy limited. Peace will only be achieved at the cost of effort and sacrifice. Moreover, it is in this sense that a hundred American Jewish leaders have called on Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to peace. They addressed the Israeli Prime Minister a letter, dated April 3, 2013, (sponsored by the Israel Policy Forum organization) urging him to take “concrete confidence-building measures to show Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution for two people, to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The signatories of the letter ask the Prime Minister of Israel to “work closely with the Secretary of State to develop pragmatic initiatives consistent with the security needs of Israel, while expressing to Israel the willingness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.” They hope that this initiative will encourage “the Palestinian leadership to take similar positive steps including and especially a rapid return to the negotiating table.” Bishop Shomali announces that “this letter has its weight and will help John Kerry in his mission.” And the Bishop of Jerusalem hopes: “If John Kerry gets the settlement freeze, then yes, it would be encouraging to revive peace talks.

Christophe Lafontaine