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Continued: Israeli leader signals readiness to compromise; Palestinians remain wary

  • Article by: JOSEF FEDERMAN , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 27, 2013 - 2:15 PM

Following the re-elections of both Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, the U.S. has launched a new mission aimed at reviving peace talks.

Kerry has been shuttling between the sides in search of an acceptable formula. His arrival in Israel late Thursday marked his fifth visit to the region since taking office early this year.

The Americans have been putting pressure on both sides without tangible signs of progress so far. Kerry's proposal is expected to call for compromises by both, including a partial halt to settlement construction, economic aid to the beleaguered Palestinian economy and guarantees that Israel will negotiate border issues in a timely manner.

U.S. officials traveling with Kerry said he will be using long-time relationships with officials from both sides to coax them into talks, and at the same time will remind them of what could happen if no accord is reached.

Earlier this month, in a speech to the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington, Kerry said that the best way to truly ensure Israel's security is by ending the conflict and reaching a negotiated resolution that results in two states.

" The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to a policy of nonviolence," he said. "But if that experiment is allowed to fail, ask yourselves: What will replace it?" The failure of the moderate Palestinian leadership could very well invite the rise of the very thing that we want to avoid: the same extremism in the West Bank that we have seen in Gaza or from southern Lebanon."

It is far from clear whether Kerry will succeed, and Netanyahu's grand vision, if he has one, remains a secret.

Dore Gold, a former Netanyahu adviser who remains a confidant of the prime minister, said the Israeli leader "is determined to make the peace process work" and show "considerable Israeli flexibility."

"At the same time, he's cognizant of the fact that Israel is in a much more dangerous neighborhood," he said, referring to the civil war in neighboring Syria and the takeover of Gaza by Hamas militants. That requires far-reaching security guarantees, Gold said.

Yossi Beilin, a dovish former Israeli politician who helped negotiate interim peace accords with the Palestinians, said there is a complicated "dichotomy" with Netanyahu. Beilin said he has held discussions with Netanyahu and believes he truly is serious about pursuing peace. But he also remains a fervent nationalist and security hawk who will not make the concessions demanded by the Palestinians.

"He is not somebody with whom you cannot talk. But ... not really ready to pay the price of a permanent agreement," Beilin said.

Beilin said the Palestinians should consider pursuing an "interim" deal, granting them independence in 50 to 70 percent of the West Bank while leaving the most difficult issues, such as final borders and the status of Jerusalem, for later. As long as Hamas, which opposes a peace deal with Israel, controls Gaza, a partial deal is the best anyone can hope for anyway, he said.

"There is an opportunity with him," Beilin said, referring to Netanyahu.

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