Kerry calls on Israeli, Palestinian leaders to ‘lead’ for peace

(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “lead” and to make compromises for peace.

“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” Kerry said Thursday in Algeria, where he is holding strategic security talks. “The leaders have to lead and they have to be able to see a moment when it’s there.”

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U.S. special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations Martin Indyk met Wednesday with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem in an effort to break the impasse in the talks, which have been complicated in recent days by a Palestinian decision to turn to international organizations for recognition after Israel decided not to release a fourth group of long-term Palestinian prisoners, and an Israeli announcement of housing tenders in eastern Jerusalem.

The meeting, which ended at 3 a.m. on Thursday, did not resolve the crisis.

A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said Wednesday that the talks are not dead, though some do not believe they will last through the original April 29 deadline.

“Look, to be clear, over the last 24 hours, there have been unhelpful actions taken on both sides here, and we didn’t think it was a productive time for the secretary to return to the region,” Harf said. “But we’re not playing the blame game. There is a chance to move this process forward.”

Kerry reportedly spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday evening and secured their pledges to continue negotiating through the April 29 deadline.

Earlier in the week, Kerry reportedly offered to free American spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard in an effort to encourage Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, including freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, in order to extend the negotiations. But U.S. security officials have voiced fresh opposition to freeing Pollard in light of the offer.

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