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Kerry back in Israel for peace push

May 23, 2013 11:28 A.M. (Updated: May 24, 2013 9:05 P.M.)
AMMAN, Jordan (AFP) -- US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in to Israel Thursday as he kept up a push to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to peace negotiations amid a growing skepticism over his efforts.

Making his fourth trip to Israel since he began his tenure in February, Kerry was to head straight into talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Ramallah to meet President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel's top negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday the government is divided on the issue of peace with the Palestinians.

"There are ideological differences at the heart of the government," Livni told public radio.

The stalling of the peace process since September 2010 "only serves the interests of those think that each passing day (without a peace agreement) allows them to build a new house," she said, in reference to Jewish settlement building on Palestinian territory, a key issue preventing a return to talks.

"But this is not the position of the majority of Israel's population," she added.

Kerry's meetings come after a long day of diplomacy in Jordan, during which he met with 10 other foreign ministers from the "Friends of Syria" group in a bid to try to end the Syrian conflict.

Kerry has been back and forth to the region to push for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

But despite public declarations of support for his efforts, frustrations have been welling up from both sides.

"Kerry has a lot of good intentions and a real sense of mission" but in practice "looks like a naive and ham-handed diplomat who has been acting like a bull in the china shop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," a columnist wrote last week in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

And in an interview with Palestinian press, Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member, said she saw "no readiness" on the Israeli part for a resumption of talks.

"We are waiting for a clear American position and a clear Israeli commitment in the peace process requirements," she said.

Kerry however seems committed to his push, and after whirlwind talks Thursday and Friday, will return to the region on Monday to attend the World Economic Forum in Amman.

He has been seeking to put together a plan for the economic revival of the West Bank and it is possible he could unveil his ideas at the forum.

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