By Rebecca Shabad - 12/06/13 08:53 AM EST
Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israelis and Palestinians on Friday to follow in Nelson Mandela’s footsteps and make peace.
Before departing Israel after another round of negotiations with each side, Kerry quoted Mandela as having said, in the face of challenges, “it always seems impossible until it is done,” according to Reuters.
Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and former South African president, died in South Africa on Thursday.
Kerry returns to the U.S. on Friday after a two-day trip to Israel and the West Bank. He met individually with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Both sides have recently said the talks are collapsing because of issues involving Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the interim Iranian nuclear deal.
A Palestinian official told Reuters on Thursday that Abbas rejected a security proposal Kerry and retired Marine Gen. John Allen presented.
“The Palestinian side rejected them because they would only lead to prolonging and maintaining the occupation [of the West Bank],” the official said.
Saeb Erekat, the lead Palestinian negotiator, denied the report and said the U.S. team never offered a finalized proposal to Abbas, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators last held direct talks in early November. Kerry kick-started them in July and has aimed to strike a peace deal by the spring.
Netanyahu, Obama and Kerry will speak at the Saban Forum on Middle East foreign policy in Washington this weekend. Kerry will deliver the keynote address.