Secretary of State John Kerry said relations between Israelis and Palestinians have fallen to all-time lows and mistrust among the two peoples have spiked to all-time highs -- and yet, he still says those gaps can be bridged and peace can prevail.
"[I'm still hopeful of striking] some kind of understanding of the road forward," Mr. Kerry said on Wednesday, after acknowledging that the two sides were nonetheless casting highly suspicious eyes at each other, Agence France-Presse reported. "[There are] gaps ... some of them very significant [but] I still believe it's possible" to reach a peace deal.
It's going to be "difficult," Mr. Kerry admitted, while speaking to congressional lawmakers about the 2015 State Department budget, AFP reported. "Certain narrative issues are so powerful and so difficult that neither leader is going to definitively cede on them at an early stage of the negotiation." Yet some of those "big-ticket items" demand one side give in so a peace pact negotiation could go forward, he said.
Mr. Kerry has brought the two sides back to the bargaining table. But he has yet to facilitate any deal -- and in fact, he's only heightened tensions at certain times. A few weeks ago, top government officials in Israeli's government suggested Mr. Kerry back off and stop demanding a halt to settlement construction as a condition of peace talks -- something that top Jewish leaders have stated on numerous occasions was not open to quid pro quo consideration for discussions.
"The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I've ever seen," Mr. Kerry said, AFP reported. "Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here."
Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet with President Obama on Monday to discuss the peace talk progression. That meeting comes just a few days after Mr. Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the same.
"Each of them has helped to inch forward," Mr. Kerry said, of the leadership talks, in the AFP report. "And in this particular challenge, inches are acceptable and pretty good and helpful. And we're going to keep moving the way we're moving."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.