Kerry: US Not Quitting Search for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

gazzaU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged Monday to continue working on a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace during President Barack Obama’s final nine months in office.

During a speech to the Israel advocacy group J Street, Kerry stressed the importance of ending the long-running conflict and that the two-state path is the only one that will work.

“You can’t just keep condemning the other side and then not try to change lives and build up the capacity to be able to change choices,” Kerry said. “You have to work at this.”

Kerry made Israeli-Palestinian peace one of his stop priorities when he became secretary of state in early 2013. He got the two sides to talk for nine months, but the process broke down in April 2014 with no agreement. Months later a 50-day war in Gaza that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians cemented a divide that persists today.

One outstanding obstacle has been Israel’s continued construction of settlements in areas the Palestinians see as part of a future state.U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in his own address to J Street, cited the settlements as well as the lack of condemnations from Palestinian leaders of attacks against Israelis as damaging and counterproductive acts that prevent any progress.

“I firmly believe that the actions that Israel’s government has taken over the past several years — the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures — they’re moving us and more importantly they’re moving Israel in the wrong direction,” Biden said.

Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month during a visit to the region, and said Monday the trip gave him no encouragement about the prospects for peace in the near future.

“There is at the moment no political will that I observed from either Israelis or Palestinians to go forward with serious negotiations,” the vice president said.

Similar to Kerry’s remarks, Biden said the U.S. has continued trying to push for a two-state solution, despite “sometimes overwhelming frustration with the Israeli government.”