U.S. Officials: Kerry Feels He Has 'Gone as Far as He Can' for Mideast Peace

Washington Post and New York Times quote administration officials saying both sides need to make own decision, editorial in each paper heap criticism on Obama's plan to free Pollard.

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Barak Ravid
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry climbs up the stairs of the plane to leave Tel Aviv, Israel, April 1, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry climbs up the stairs of the plane to leave Tel Aviv, Israel, April 1, 2014.Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

American efforts to extend the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have reached a breaking point: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry feels he has maximized his potential as peace mediator and sees no chance for progress if the sides refuse to make major decisions on their own, senior American officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times in articles published Wednesday.

A senior American official told The Post that Kerry has "gone as far as he can as mediator" and that the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, seen as a bargaining chip, would no longer be on table unless the Palestinians and Israelis made "significant moves forward."

A piece published in The New York Times sounded the same sentiments. An American official said that Kerry's decision to cancel his trips to Jerusalem and Ramallah represented a growing lack of patience within the White House, which "believes that his mediating efforts have reached their limit and that the two sides need to work their way out of the current impasse."

The editorials in both of the American papers heaped sharp criticism on the Obama administration's plans to free Pollard in exchange for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

"The obvious question is why the United States is in the position of offering its own concessions rather than brokering compromise between the two parties that are supposed to be negotiating," The Post asked in its editorial. "The simple answer is that, despite lavishing his time and attention on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the past year, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has failed to persuade either to budge from widely divergent positions on the terms of Palestinian statehood. Mr. Pollard’s possible release looks like a way to buy time — and avoid admitting defeat."

The Times editorial, titled "Bad Move on Jonathan Pollard" was no less critical.

"The emergence of the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard as a bargaining chip in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is a lamentable sign of America’s desperation to keep both sides talking. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved only if they want it for themselves, something that is very much in doubt right now," it said.

"An Obama administration proposal to free Mr. Pollard, an American intelligence analyst serving a life sentence after spying for Israel, as a political gesture toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is a bad idea and would do nothing to advance progress on the core issues of a peace deal," it added.

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