Kerry talks peace prospects with Netanyahu, Erekat

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — John Kerry spoke with Israeli and Palestinian leaders about peace prospects in the region.

Kerry, the secretary of state, spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and met Wednesday with Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.

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Kerry raised with Netanyahu the Obama administration’s call on Israel to reverse its decision this week to appropriate 1,000 acres of West Bank land for settlement expansion, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

At their meeting Wednesday, Erekat presented to Kerry a plan for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within three years based on U.N. resolutions.

On Thursday, Psaki’s deputy, Marie Harf, would not comment on Erekat’s proposal.

“It was a constructive conversation, covered a range of issues including Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and recent developments in the region,” she said. “They agreed to keep talking in the weeks ahead.”

Kerry, after intensive efforts to advance peace talks, has pulled back from involvement since talks collapsed in April.

Psaki said that Netanyahu and Kerry also discussed the threat posed in the Middle East by Islamist extremists, particularly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which this week beheaded Steven Sotloff, a journalist who was a dual Israeli-American citizen.