Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he is optimistic that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will succeed in restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a rare upbeat assessment about American mediation efforts.
Abbas’ comments came two days after Kerry ended his latest peace mission to the region without any breakthroughs. While Kerry said he had narrowed the gaps between the sides, the lack of any visible progress has led to pessimism on both sides.
A poll released Tuesday shows that Israelis and Palestinians have little faith in Kerry’s peace efforts.
At a news conference, Abbas said Kerry presented “useful and constructive suggestions” and promised to return to the region soon. Kerry left aides behind to continue the mediation efforts.
“We are optimistic because he is serious and determined to reach a solution,” Abbas said at a joint appearance with visiting Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Netanyahu said he was committed to seeing Kerry succeed and ready to start serious negotiations.
“I said that Secretary Kerry’s effort should be supported. If he were to pitch a tent between my office here in Jerusalem and Abu Mazen’s office in Ramallah then I would enter that tent immediately and I would stay in it so that we can devote serious effort to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said, using the Palestinian president’s nickname.
“The only way you can get to the end of the negotiations is to begin them, so we should get on with them − begin negotiations,” Netanyahu said.
Kerry’s talks package is expected to include incentives to both sides, including limits to settlement construction, guarantees to the Palestinians that border issues will be discussed in a timely manner, security guarantees to Israel, international financial aid to the Palestinians and release of some Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The Palestinians are demanding the release of more than 100 prisoners convicted before the first interim peace accords in 1993.
Also Tuesday , a joint poll by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, West Bank, showed deep skepticism.
Only 27 percent of the Palestinians and 10 percent of the Israelis polled said they think the two sides will return to negotiations and violence will cease.
Still, a majority on both sides − 62 percent of Israelis and 53 percent of Palestinians − support a two-state solution.
According to the survey, a majority on each side views the other as “constituting a threat to its very existence.”
The survey was conducted shortly before Kerry’s visit. It polled 1,270 Palestinians face-to-face in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Pollsters interviewed 601 Israelis over the phone. The survey had a 4.5 percentage-point margin of error.