Nevertheless, both Jerusalem and Ramallah are trying to remain optimistic. Upon landing, Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and on Friday he is scheduled to meet Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu's emissary Yitzhak Molcho, followed by meetings with members of the Palestinian Authority. Next week Kerry will depart for Amman, Jordan.
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During a Kuwait press conference the US state secretary said he set no deadline for the two sides but stressed the need to make some progress before the UN General Assembly resumes the Middle East debate in September.
Kerry, Netanyahu in Jerusalem (Photo: Yonatan Zindel/Flash 90)
"Long before September we need to be showing some kind of progress in some way because I don’t think we have the luxury of that kind of time,” he said in the press conference.
“Time is the enemy of a peace process,” Kerry said. “The passage of time allows a vacuum to be filled by people who don’t want things to happen.”
But Israeli officials were careful not to get excited over reports of an alleged Palestinian agreement to return to the negotiation table sans preconditions.
"We didn't get any such indications," a Jerusalem official said, "but there's a feeling in the air that something is moving."
At the same time, the Americans made it clear to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that come the UN General Assembly he will not be able to lay the blame for the stalled negotiations on the Israelis.
"It's possible this is what's causing the Palestinians to try and renew the negotiations and advance later on the unilateral route," an Israeli official postulated.
"Some options to renew the talks are being reviewed, but Netanyahu has yet to make any decisions regarding the Palestinian demands. Though the Americans have plenty of goodwill, at this stage no progress can be reported or a date for a restart of the talks be given," he added.
Kerry is scheduled to meet Abbas once during his visit, but Palestinian sources estimate that the two will meet at least twice during the state secretary's shuttles between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.
Kerry, Abbas in Ramallah (Photo: EPA)
But the Palestinians share in Israel's lack of enthusiasm ahead of Kerry's fifth visit to the region.
Publicly, Abbas is trying to show some optimism in light of the new bout of pre-talks. In an interview for Al-Jazeera on Wednesday, he voiced hope that Kerry's visit will be a significant one. "We've emphasized and we reiterate our readiness to return to the negotiating table. We've said more than once that if the Israeli government believes in the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 line, we'll be ready to resume the talks."
However, PLO Executive Committee Member Yasser Abd Rabbo was skeptical Kerry could bring any progress in the stalled talks as Israel is blocking these attempts and there are no signs its position has changed.
Abd Rabbo further stressed that negotiations without preconditions are useless.
Netanyahu, like Abbas, is also opposed in his home-base. MK Avigdor Lieberman said in a Yisrael Beiteinu youth rally in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that "it's clear that Abbas' move is not for peace talks, but another defiant maneuver meant to incite against Israel in September's UN Assembly."
According to Lieberman, "At the center of Abbas' maneuver will be more accusations against Israel for not wanting to reach peace, another hateful speech like in previous assemblies, more requests to be admitted into sundry UN agencies and a request to be upgraded into full-membership status in the UN.
"In order to blame Israel, he knows that he should make a few moves that will make him look as if he wants peace."
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