Obama: 'No apologies' for Kerry on peace

 

President Obama on Friday said a lack of “political will” has undermined the effort to reach a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians while standing behind the efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry.

“What we haven’t seen, frankly, is the political will to make tough decisions on both sides,” Obama said during a news conference in South Korea.

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The president's remarks came the day after Israel suspended its participation in the peace negotiations and after the decision by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with rival Hamas. The reconciliation drew protest from both the U.S. and Israel, both of which consider the Gaza-based organization a terrorist group.

On Friday, Obama described the move by Abbas as “unhelpful.”

But the president said “nobody has offered me a serious scenario” by which Israel could achieve security and Palestine would be recognized as a state, absent a negotiated deal.

“I make no apologies for Secretary of State Kerry’s tireless efforts, despite long odds,” Obama said.

“We didn’t anticipate we were going to solve it over the course of a six or nine month” negotiation, he added.

Still, Obama said the effort might need a “pause” so leaders could weigh the consequences of not continuing to negotiate.

In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’s decision to enter a pact with Hamas was “killing peace.”

“If he continues with the pact with Hamas, he's essentially buried it,” Netanyahu said. 

“I hope he changes his mind, because the only way we can move forward is to have partners who are committed to living with Israel and not killing Israelis,” the Israeli leader added.

The U.S. had hoped to broker a framework agreement for a peace deal by next week, the conclusion of a nine-month negotiating window proposed by Kerry in a bid to restart talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

But the prospects for such an agreement and continued negotiations faded earlier this month, when the Palestinian leadership submitted applications to 15 separate international treaties seeking statehood recognition outside the peace talks. That move came after Israeli leaders refused to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners who they had agreed to free as a precondition to the Kerry-brokered peace talks.