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PM Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Kerry in Rome

PM Netanyahu: We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context - how to advance the process with the Palestinians, as well as regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East.​

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry, in Rome, issued the following statements before their meeting:
US Secretary of State John Kerry:
"Good morning, everybody. I'm delighted to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel, my friend Bibi Netanyahu, to the American residence here in Rome, which he is very familiar with. We spent quite a few hours here in the garden and in this room and elsewhere talking.
We had a very long meeting last night in which we discussed many different issues, but we focused significantly on the challenge of beating back terrorism and beating back terrorism specifically with respect to Israel's challenge in the Sinai, in the Golan Heights, where ISIL is now visible, positioned in places, and also the challenge of violence stemming from extremism in Gaza and the West Bank.
We had a very productive conversation about that, and we talked at some length about ways in which we might be able to try to work and move things in a more positive direction. We also talked about the progress being made, the significant progress being made by the Prime Minister in his discussions with Turkey, and we obviously have been encouraging a movement towards the resolution of the differences between Turkey and Israel.
And finally, we did talk at some length about the economic challenge, and particularly some of the countries in the region which are witnessing a transformational kind of set of hurdles – Egypt particularly, with respect to its economic transformation, which has to come at the same time as it is fighting back against terrorism, and we discussed how we can work together with other countries in the region in order to deal with those issues.
And of course, finally we talked about Brexit – impossible not to – and how that might or might not affect all economies, and I think we came to the conclusion that, managed properly, with leadership and effort by all of the parties to calm the waters and move in a steady way, that we can get through this – also another transformation, transition, and do so hopefully minimizing any kind of collateral negative effect.
Most importantly, Israel is, as everybody knows and we reiterate again and again, a critical ally and friend of the United States, and Israel continues to be facing significant challenges. We talked about those, and the ways in which, hopefully, with good effort by all leaders, we can try to change the direction and find a positive way to affect the lives of everybody – Israelis, Palestinians, people in the neighboring countries – and move towards a more stable and peaceful future."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"Thank you, John, for dinner and breakfast, and for our conversations. I welcome the opportunity to have the, I would say, probing talks on the region, on the challenges and on the opportunities with my good friend John Kerry. There are serious talks by two committed allies, Israel and the United States.
We discussed everything that the Secretary spoke about – the challenges in the region from ISIL, east, west, south. We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context. We discussed how we can advance the process with the Palestinians, difficult though it may be. We discussed regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East, moving into a place where it will be less convulsive. And we discussed some bilateral issues between us. This was a far-ranging discussion that I think was meant to bring us both in a common direction for common purposes, and I find it very valuable, so thank you.
I updated Secretary Kerry about our agreement with Turkey, which we will show at noon. I think it's an important step here to normalize relations on one side. It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly – immense implications for the Israeli economy and I mean positive immense implications.
A lot of other things were discussed and will be discussed today, but I remember a meeting that I had with Secretary Kerry quite some time ago when we discussed it, and with Vice President Biden, whom I called yesterday, who met me a couple years ago in Davos. Rod is an oil expert, he's a gas expert, and he said, "This will create the foundations, part of the foundations, of the future of your economy." That has been uppermost in my mind, and I'll say more about that today at lunch.
US Secretary of State John Kerry: Because I wanted, I wanted the Prime Minister to say something about it and it shouldn't have come from me. But first of all, we welcome, the United States welcomes this step. It is something we have talked about for several years, as the Prime Minister has said. I'm proud to say that the Vice President's oil expert is the State Department's oil expert. Amos Hochstein did a great job on this too, and the Vice President's been pushing this all along. So, we are obviously pleased in the Administration. This is a step we wanted to see happen. I think when President Obama came to Israel, there was a famous phone call on the tarmac of the airport to Turkey, as we tried to move things forward. So this is coming full circle, and Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you. I know your team has been working long and hard at this. I think it's a positive step, one of, I hope, the beginning of others. Thank you. Appreciate it."
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FM Liberman meets US Secretary Kerry in Washington

FM Liberman: Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas.


Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met in Washington D.C. with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Minister Liberman told Secretary Kerry that Israel deeply appreciates America's support during Operation Protective Edge and that the Israeli leadership and people know that the United States is Israel's greatest friend. FM Liberman asked Secretary Kerry to have the State Department's travel warning to Israel changed in the wake of the end of Operation Protective Edge, so that American citizens will know that there is no reason not to visit Israel, and they will not be in any danger.

FM Liberman told Secretary Kerry that Israel supports the United States in its efforts to form a broad international front against ISIS, and stands ready to help in this task should it be asked, taking into consideration the sensitivities of the states taking part and the needs of the United States.

Minister Liberman noted that the war against terror, in all its forms, is the most important taks of the free world today. We cannot differentiate one form of terror from another. The Hamas terrorist activities against Israel and against the people of Gaza are no different from the terror of ISIS. The difference is only semantic and in the media approach adopted by the organizations. Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas. As long as Hamas rules in Gaza, there will not be peace or security. Anyone who seeks to advance an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must bring an end to the rule of terror within the Palestinian Authority.

FM Liberman also told Secretary Kerry that the need to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state is part of the same struggle, because Iran is the number one exporter of terror in the world. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the world will be a much more dangerous place and the Middle East will enter a nuclear arms race that will convulse the region even more than today. The world powers must stand firm in their negotiations with Iran and continue the sanctions, because there can be no compromise with terrorism.
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Netanyahu Update: Freezing and release of prisoners in exchange for Pollard

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry meet to "polish" the deal that would release Pollard before Passover for the release of hundreds of Plalestinians prisoners.

According to sources who spoke with the Prime Minister , the deal will include the release of the Jewish spy - American Jonathan Pollard before Passover Seder and the continuation of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2015 . In return , Israel agreed to release the terrorists ' fourth pulse "and 400 other prisoners without blood on their hands , most of them young and some women , which will determine their identity. Also part of the deal Israel agrees to freeze construction in the settlements .
Netanyahu told Likud ministers this morning that construction auctions in Samaria will be frozen, but despite the Palestinian demand Israel will continue construction in progress, as well as private construction and building public institutions and in Jerusalem. Progress has been made in meeting the night before, but the final details have not yet been closed.

Kerry was supposed to to continue last night, after his meeting with Netanyahu meeting, to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting was postponed and was informed that it will be this morning, after the two finally met Kerry flew back to Europe after the meeting with Netanyahu.
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Kerry Cites Some Progress in Mideast Talks

Scott Bobb

VOA, JERUSALEM — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has briefed leaders in Jordan and Saudi Arabia on his latest efforts to boost the Israeli - Palestinian peace talks. Kerry said Sunday, before leaving Israel, that some progress has been made but much work still needs to be done.

Secretary of State Kerry arrived in Jordan following four days of intensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Before leaving Jerusalem, he told reporters that his conversations had been intensive and productive.

"We are not there yet but we are making progress, and we are beginning to flesh out the toughest hurdles yet to be the overcome," he said.

Kerry met three times with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. He told reporters afterwards the parties were discussing a framework to guide negotiations on a final settlement.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said this should include all the core issues.

“No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry's efforts than the Palestinians. And no one stands to lose more of [from] failure than Palestinians," he said.

Kerry also met three times with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who praised Kerry’s efforts, but said at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting that serious concerns remain.

He said the Palestinians continued to resist recognition of the Jewish state, "our right to be here." The Israeli leader said there were many other issues, but that was a fundamental problem.

An analyst at the U.S. Institute for Peace (Center for Conflict Management), Neil Kritz, said Kerry’s proposed framework was aimed at building trust and confidence on both sides.

“That hopefully is one of the pieces that can push them to make the decisions, commit to certain measures that they are not willing to or able to do at their own initiative,” said Kritz.

Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars said no one wanted to be blamed for the failure of the talks, but this did not ensure that they would succeed.

“It is all about whether or not this satisfies the individual and national interests of these leaders, not John Kerry’s personality. He can be the facilitator or the bridge but in the end this will rise and fall, if it is meaningful, on the basis of whether or not Abbas and Netanyahu believe that it is in their own interests and they can sell it. And that is going to be driven largely by the substance,” he said.

Kerry said he plans to brief the Arab League on the talks and is to return soon for more discussions.

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UN, Iran Reach Nuclear Cooperation Deal

VOA News, The United Nations and Iran have announced an agreement to cooperate on resolving outstanding issues regarding the country's nuclear program. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said critics of a separate bid to limit Iran's nuclear activity need to let negotiations take their course.

Talks Monday between the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, and the Iranian nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, yielded a roadmap that will allow for wider U.N. inspections, including at a heavy water reactor site and a uranium mine.

The IAEA has been focused for two years on reaching a deal with Iran to gain greater access to documents regarding the country’s nuclear program, in addition to related personnel and sites.

Meanwhile, Kerry said on Monday during a visit to Abu Dhabi that critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, must recognize that world powers have not yet reached any agreement in their talks with Iran.

He said the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany were united on the plan they presented to Iranian negotiators Saturday in Geneva, but that Iran could not accept it at that time.

The powers are seeking to persuade Iran to suspend work that could allow it to build nuclear weapons in exchange for the easing of some sanctions against Iran. Those negotiations are due to resume next week.

Israel, which calls Iran's nuclear drive a mortal threat, has warned against any deal that would leave some of Iran's nuclear fuel-making capacity intact while giving Tehran respite from sanctions.

Kerry said on Monday that it would not be responsible to ignore an opportunity to come to a verifiable agreement with Iran that would prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

There has been hope that the election of new moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in June will lead to progress in both the talks with the IAEA and the group of six world powers.

Rouhani told his parliament on Sunday that Iran will not give up what it considers its nuclear rights, including the right to enrich uranium on Iranian soil, in any deal with international negotiators.
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PM Netanyahu Meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome and said at the start of their meeting:
"The foremost security problem that we face as you said is Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. Preventing that is a goal I share with you and President Obama, and you have said, I think wisely, that Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn't have centrifuges or enrichment. They shouldn't have a plutonium heavy water plant, which is used only for nuclear weapons. They should get rid of the advanced fissile material and they shouldn't have underground nuclear facilities, underground for one reason – for military purposes.
I think you're right. I think no deal is better than a bad deal. I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal. You wisely insisted there wouldn't be a partial deal with Syria. You were right. If Assad had said, you know, "I am ready to dismantle 90%, 50% or 80% of my chemical weapons capability," you would have refused and correctly so, and I think in the case of Iran, it is essential that it be made to live up to Security Council resolutions that demand an end to enrichment and enrichment capability and an end to plutonium heavy water capability toward fissile material for nuclear weapons.
I think we're very close together and I agree with you that the goal is to get it peacefully, peacefully. The best way to get it peacefully is to maintain the pressure on Iran. That's what got them into these renewed negotiations in the first place. The leadership of the United States and the President have shown on the issue of sanctions I think has been centrally important. I think it'll be a tragic mistake to stop right before that goal is realized. And I look forward to discussing this issue with you.
The second thing we're discussing all the time, and I'm not revealing state secrets if I tell you that we, the Secretary and I talk more or less every other day about these twin goals –is to advance the peace the Palestinians. That peace is premised on mutual recognition, of two states for two peoples, of the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the Jewish state for the Jewish people. I think that's fundamental for any peace, but equally it must be a peace that, as President Obama has said, a peace that Israel can defend by itself, for itself, against any conceivable threat. I think these are the two twin pillars for peace and I look forward to discussing how we can advance both goals in our discussions today and undoubtedly our discussions tomorrow as well."

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US Looking to Bolster Israeli-Palestinian Talks at UN

Scott Stearns

VOA, At this week's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be pushing efforts to back ongoing peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The talks are based on a two-state solution to the conflict.

Nothing has taken more of John Kerry's time as Secretary of State than Middle East peace. So these talks have been front and center in the run-up to his first U.N. General Assembly. "I am talking to both leaders directly and everybody, I think, understands the goal that we are working for. It is two states living side by side in peace and in security," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it is time. "We both know that this road is not an easy one, but we have embarked this effort with you in order to succeed to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all," he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians are ready. "We have a period of nine months during which we hope to be able to reach to a peace agreement between us and the Israelis," he said.

Obstacles include the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli and Palestinian capital and the borders of a two-state solution.

The same issues that have largely blocked progress on a negotiated settlement since the Oslo Accords 20 years ago. So what has changed? Broader Israeli concerns about the future, says former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli. "Whether or not you have the territory, whether or not you have provided for your security, the fact of the matter is it does not serve Israel's long-term interest to be an occupying power," he said.

Israel has issued new work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank as part of economic measures aimed at supporting the peace talks. But that is offset by new Israeli settlements, says Oxfam's Alun McDonald. "There are a lot of reasons to feel positive, but itis very hard to be optimistic when over the past few weeks there have been more announcements of settlements, there have been more demolitions of homes, and the occupation still continues," he said.

Settlements are a particularly difficult issue for Israel's coalition government, says Cato Institute analyst Doug Bandow. "The internal political dynamic is a very complicated one. It is hard to give those up. There is very little trust on both sides, so there is a lot of skepticism out there," he said.

Bandow says putting a peace deal to Israeli voters is especially perilous for a coalition government confronting divisive social issues of welfare benefits and military service for Orthodox Jews. "This really has to look good, it really has to look salable before Netanyahu is going to take ownership. He's got a lot else on his plate," he said.

Former Israeli negotiator Uri Savir says the momentum of the Oslo Accords is not entirely lost. "Peace processes take time. It is a difficult transition. But the foundations are still alive. And a two-state solution will still be achieved, I have no doubt," he said.

Kerry says time is the enemy of a peace process because it allows a vacuum to be filled by people who do not want things to happen.

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PM Netanyahu: What the past few days have shown is that if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat. What is true of Syria is true of Iran, and vice versa.

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at the conclusion of his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry:
"We have been closely following – and support – your ongoing efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer.
The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don't have weapons of mass destruction because as we've learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime's patron, Iran. Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community, by its pursuit towards nuclear weapons.
What the past few days have shown is something that I have been saying for quite some time, that if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat. What is true of Syria is true of Iran, and, by the way, vice versa.
John, I appreciate the opportunity we've had to discuss at some length our quest for peace with the Palestinians and the ongoing talks. We both know that this road is not an easy one, but we have embarked on this effort with you in order to succeed, to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all."

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Kerry: Israeli Settlements Should Not Derail Peace Talks

VOA News, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says new Israeli settlement activity should not derail peace talks with the Palestinians.



Kerry said during a visit to Bogota, Colombia, on Monday that "the United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate." But he added that the issue of settlements is best resolved by solving the problems of security and borders during talks.

Israel Sunday approved building almost 1,200 new homes in occupied areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. They include parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Palestinian officials say the move is an attempt to undermine the peace process. An Israeli government spokesman says the new homes will be in areas Israel will likely keep in any peace deal.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are set to resume peace talks Wednesday in Jerusalem. U.S. negotiator Martin Indyk will also attend.

On Monday, Israel published the names of 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners it plans to release ahead the talks.

Most of the Palestinians to be freed were jailed in the late 1980s and early 1990s for murder and attempted murder of Israelis and suspected Palestinian collaborators.

Israel agreed to free 104 inmates in stages. But their release depends on the progress of the U.S.-backed peace talks. Opponents of the prisoner release call it a reward for terrorism.

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Netanyahu: Peace Talks with Palestinians Will Be Tough

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that some details were still being worked out but that if all goes well, Palestinian and Israeli officials would travel to Washington for initial talks

VOA News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured his Cabinet that any results from resumed negotiations with the Palestinians will be put to a national referendum.

His comment Sunday follows a U.S. brokered agreement to restart long-stalled peace talks between the two sides. Netanyahu told his ministers the process will not be easy, but that Israel's approach will be sincere. He said he hopes the talks will be handled responsibly and practically.

The last direct talks collapsed in 2010. Borders, refugees, security, Jewish settlements and Jerusalem are among the difficult issues that have not been resolved.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that some details were still being worked out but that if all goes well, Palestinian and Israeli officials would travel to Washington for initial talks within the next week or two.

Kerry announced the agreement for resuming negotiations after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several times during a four-day visit to Jordan.

White House officials said President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to ask him to work with Kerry to "resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible."

Israeli officials said Saturday that they would release a "limited" number of Palestinian prisoners as a gesture for resuming talks, but have not given further details.

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