January 2

Kerry: Mideast peace still possible despite rifts

The Israeli prime minister accuses his Palestinian counterpart of giving freed terrorists a hero’s welcome.

By Deb Riechmann
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement during a news conference before their talk at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem on Thursday.

The Associated Press

In what they said was a message to Kerry, a senior Israeli Cabinet minister and more than a dozen hawkish lawmakers poured cement at a construction site in a settlement in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley on Thursday, saying Israel will never relinquish the strategic area.

Virtually all of the politicians were either members of Netanyahu’s Likud or other parties in his coalition. Their visit to the isolated community of Gitit highlighted the political backlash Netanyahu would face if he agreed to leave the valley in a peace deal.

The valley runs along the eastern edge of the West Bank, abutting Jordan, and its fate is expected to be one of the key issues raised during Kerry’s visit.

Despite the latest rifts, Kerry tried to remain upbeat.

“We are now five full months into this negotiation,” Kerry said. “We have always known that achieving peace is a long and complicated process. It’s a tough road. But this is not mission impossible.”

Kerry reiterated the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security and said he would work intensely with both sides to narrow differences on a framework that would address all core issues, including the borders between Israel and a future Palestine, security, Palestinian refugees and conflicting claims to the holy city of Jerusalem.

“It would create the fixed, defined parameters by which the parties would then know where they are going and what the end result can be,” Kerry said.

Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Karin Laub in Gitit, West Bank, and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

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