US Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up his most recent visit to the region on Wednesday, declaring it "very constructive." But the Israeli and Palestinian officials he met with were not singing the same tune.
Kerry was dispatched to the region to follow-up President Barack Obama's visit and accompanying charm offensive last month. The hope was that having successfully softened Israeli hearts toward Obama, Washington would be able to kick-start the stagnant peace process.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said that the economic incentives Kerry had offered for renewing peace talks were not enough. Abbas was adamant that he would not talk peace with Israel until the Jewish state releases jailed Palestinian terrorists, even those who have murdered Jews, and agrees as a pre-condition to meet all Arab land demands.
Israeli Minister Silvan Shalom pointed to these unacceptable demands to show that it is the Palestinian side that continues to "place every barrier possible" to actually moving forward toward peace. Israel, noted Shalom, has been trying to return to the negotiating table, without preconditions, for the past four years.
In his meeting with Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was time for his side to start making some preconditions of its own, and insisted that renewed talks much focus much more heavily on the issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
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