US Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Israel on Wednesday amid local concerns that his boss, President Barack Obama, intends to impose a peace settlement on Israel and the Palestinians that ultimately serves American interests.
America has switched from a "third-party trying to bring the two sides together, to a role of direct involvement in the process," Zahava Gal-On, head of the left-wing Meretz Party, said after meeting US and Palestinian officials earlier in the week.
"There will be a new diplomatic program, based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps," Gal-On added matter-of-factly.
In greeting Kerry upon his arrival on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was worried about the direction the current peace talks are taking.
"I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crisis, continuing to avoid historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace," said Netanyahu, who earlier in the week charged that the main obstacle to peace is the Palestinian leadership's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Kerry, however, reiterated his belief that the negotiations are going well and progressing as planned. There are certainly difficulties and challenges, the American conceded, but "I am confident of our ability to work through them. That's why I'm here."
Hours before Kerry's arrival, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for the 17th time since the renewal of peace talks last summer. But the session quickly deteriorated into a shouting match. "The Palestinian-Israeli negotiations broke down during the session on Tuesday night," a Palestinian official told France's AFP.
The current main issue of contention is the Palestinian demand to begin negotiations with the understanding that Israel will surrender nearly 100 percent of Judea and Samaria, including the Jordan Valley and the eastern half of Jerusalem.
Israel insists that there will be considerable land swaps to incorporate large Jewish settlements inside Israeli borders, that the border of a future Palestinian state will be along lines that provide Israel with the greatest security, and that Israel will maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Last week, Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo blamed Israel's focus on the future security of its citizens for the impasse in peace talks.
"They [Israel] want security first, and that the borders of the state of Palestine should be set out according to Israeli security needs that never end, and that will undermine the possibility of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state," Rabbo told AFP.
Given the number of times that enemy nations have attempted to annihilate the Jewish state, and the unprecedented amount of terrorism the country has endured, Israel maintains that security must be its first priority.
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