Prior to their meeting, both leaders made statements that reflected their concerns and expectations.
Netanyahu criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his warm reception of the recently released Palestinian prisoners, who had been jailed by Israel prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords. Twenty-six prisoners were released late Monday night as part of a joint U.S. and Israeli strategy to encourage Palestinian leaders to continue peace negotiations. Netanyahu also accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting hatred through media and education.
Addressing Kerry, Netanyahu said:
"John, the people of Israel and I are prepared to make such an historic peace, but we must have a Palestinian partner who’s equally prepared to make this peace. Peace means ending incitement; it means fighting terrorism and condemning terrorism; it means recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; it means meeting Israel’s security needs; and it means being prepared to truly end the conflict once and for all. If we’re to succeed in our joint effort, President Abbas must reject terror and embrace peace. I hope he doesn’t miss again the opportunity to give Israelis and Palestinians a better future."
Kerry professed that he came to Jerusalem "with no illusions" about the difficulties of reconciling two parties but expressed optimism that such reconciliation can occur. He cited Jordan's ability to move from being "on the other side" of Israel in 1967 to a country today that "is a partner in an effort to try to change things and more forward and be constructive." Kerry also remarked on how America's relationship with Vietnam has changed since the Vietnam War, saying "as painful as the past can be, through hard work of diplomacy history’s adversaries can actually become partners for a new day and history’s challenges can become opportunities for a new age."
Speaking to Israel's concerns about security, Kerry underlined that Israel's peace with the Palestinians will make Israel stronger, and that the U.S. remains committed to Israel's security and capacity to defend itself while also committed to Palestinian security needs in the context of statehood.
Five months into the on-going Mideast conversation, Kerry remarked:
"The possibilities provided by peace are dramatic and they are worth struggling for: Two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace and stability and security. Peace is possible today, I believe, because the leaders -- Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – have both each taken significant steps for peace notwithstanding the difficulties that the Prime Minister has cited – and they are real. But still we are on this track, and I believe that they are both willing to take more."
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