Kerry pressing Palestinians on framework for peace, Kaine says

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is focusing on bringing Palestinians around to his framework peace proposals, said the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s subcommittee on the Middle East.

“He’s been spending a lot of time exploring the willingness of the Israeli leadership to make concessions in five key areas and now he’s going to be spending some significant time with the Palestinians on the same thing,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Monday in a conference call summing up his Middle East tour last week with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

Kaine and King met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their visit and discussed the peace process in depth.

Kerry has said he will soon unveil a proposal for a framework for a peace agreement that will address five broad topics – the “key areas” to which Kaine referred: mutual recognition; security, land swaps and borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and the end of conflict and all claims.

Leaked details of the proposal have encountered resistance in both camps. Israeli officials object to sharing Jerusalem and modifications to the Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians object to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Both sides like the framework and were receptive to its parameters, Kaine said, but the key stumbling block remaining was that each did not believe the other side was ready.

Kaine gave March 29 as a deadline, although it was not clear why. The talks convened last summer by Kerry originally were slated to last nine months, which would make the deadline April 29, but U.S. officials have said it may be extended.

“Now is when the rubber meets the road, between now and especially the 29th of March,” he said.

Kaine’s office did not respond to a request for a clarification, and State Department officials said they did not recognize the March 29 deadline.

Kaine also said differences remain between the Netanyahu and Obama governments over the parameters of a final deal between Iran and the major powers that would keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Israel wants the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, while Obama administration officials have said that a limited uranium enrichment capacity would likely stay in place.

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