Washington — Secretary of State John Kerry says Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet to begin the process of formal negotiations within the next two weeks, with the objective of achieving a final status agreement by May 2014.
Speaking with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat at the State Department July 30, Kerry said all of the core issues that have divided the two sides will be up for negotiation, “with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims,” he said.
All sides understand that the negotiations have the goal of achieving a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel “in peace and security,” Kerry said.
“Two states because two proud peoples each deserve a country to call their own, two states because the children of both peoples deserve the opportunity to realize their legitimate aspirations in security and in freedom, and two states because the time has come for a lasting peace,” he said.
The secretary said the United States “will work continuously with both parties as a facilitator every step of the way.” On July 29, he announced that Martin Indyk would serve as U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian talks.
“I think everyone involved here believes that we cannot pass along to another generation the responsibility of ending a conflict that is in our power to resolve in our time. They should not be expected to bear that burden, and we should not leave it to them. They should not be expected to bear the pain of continued conflict or perpetual war,” Kerry said.
Those invested in the negotiations “can make peace for one simple reason: because they must,” he said. “A viable two-state solution is the only way this conflict can end. And there is not much time to achieve it. And there is no other alternative.”
Kerry praised Israeli and Palestinian leaders for heeding “the call of history” and standing up to their internal critics in order to pursue peace.
“Their commitment to make tough choices, frankly, should give all of us hope that these negotiations actually have a chance to accomplish something,” he said.
He urged both sides to expand their definition of compromise beyond the notion of giving things up, to understand that “reasonable, principled compromise in the name of peace means that everybody stands to gain, each side has a stake in the other's success, and everyone can benefit from the dividends of peace.”
The United States and other countries have been working with the private sector to help transform the Palestinian economy and attract investment, and the new industries, jobs and homes that will benefit Palestinians will also benefit Israel’s economy, he said.
“We can also envision a day when Israelis actually can truly live in peace, not just the absence of conflict, but a full and a lasting peace with Arab and Muslim nations, an end, once and for all, to the pernicious attacks on Israel's legitimacy,” Kerry said.
The secretary said both sides have agreed to keep the content of their negotiations confidential, and that he will be the only person authorized to make public comments on the talks.
“That means that no one should consider any reports, articles or other — or even rumors reliable unless they come directly from me, and I guarantee you they won't,” he said.