US Secretary of State John Kerry is wading back into the tumult of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, meeting Palestinian negotiators for the first time since the 50-day war in Gaza ended.
The talks come just days after Israel announced its biggest grab of Palestinian land since the 1980s, and as a new showdown looms at the United Nations with the increasingly frustrated Palestinians planning to push a resolution setting a three-year deadline to end the Israeli occupation.
Wednesday’s face-to-face talks will be Kerry’s first with Palestinian negotiators since Washington found itself sidelined from the Gaza ceasefire talks in July, when Kerry, the top US diplomat, failed to broker a truce in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
It was a further blow after Kerry’s high-profile bid to hammer out a full peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Authority collapsed spectacularly amid bitter recriminations in April, despite him shuttling back and forth to the region more than a dozen times during his first year in office.
The veteran diplomat was expected to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telephone on Tuesday before meeting Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erakat and Majid Faraj, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“I think they’ll talk about a range of issues. There’s obviously an ongoing ceasefire discussion and upcoming negotiations that will take place. There’s a range of longer-term issues,” Psaki said Tuesday, asked about the talks taking place the next day.
More than 2100 Palestinians – nearly 70 per cent of them civilians – were killed in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which ended last week with an open-ended ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, brokered by Egypt.
The two sides are supposed to meet soon in Cairo for negotiations on a long-term truce, but no date has been announced yet for the start of the talks.
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned Tuesday that Israel was eroding its international support, complaining the security cabinet had not been consulted about Sunday’s announcement of the confiscation of 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank for settlement building.