Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet next week with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a European capital, against the backdrop of the French peace initiative and a Quartet report likely to severely criticize Israeli policies in the West Bank.
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A senior Israeli official said Netanyahu spoke with Kerry by telephone on Friday and they decided to meet face-to-face, though no exact date or venue has as yet been set.
A senior official at the U.S. State Department noted that no date was yet set for the meeting, and that it was still unclear whether Netanyahu and Kerry's schedules would enable a meeting next week.
The main reason for the meeting is increasing international activities aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, particularly the French initiative which has raised a great deal of concern in Netanyahu's bureau. Senior officials in Jerusalem noted that the French initiative was rapidly gaining speed, and that it was clear that though the U.S. has little enthusiasm over it, it's making no efforts to stop it.
Kerry was at the June 3 foreign ministers' meeting in Paris, which lent the process a significant degree of encouragement. The 28 European foreign ministers will meet again on Monday to adopt the French plan and call for an international conference to be held by the end of the year, despite Israel's objections.
Another development raising concern in the Prime Minister's Office is a report by the Quartet of the United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations set to be published on Thursday. The report reviews the diplomatic freeze between Israel and the Palestinians and the risk facing the future prospects of a two-state solution. It is expected to severely criticize Israel for settlement construction and its policies in Area C of the West Bank where Israel exercises both civilian and security control.
On Friday, after the report is set to be published, the UN Security Council is set to hold its monthly meeting on the Middle East. One of Jerusalem's fears is that Quartet members will use the meeting to put out a presidential statement adopting the Quartet's report, its recommendations and conclusions. Such a statement, though only symbolic, would significantly enhance the report's impact.
The Netanyahu-Kerry meeting may delay publication of the Quartet's report. If so, Netanyahu will try to use the meeting as a way of softening the wording and recommendations as much as possible.