AMMAN, JORDAN – Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that Israeli and Palestinian officials had reached an agreement that “establishes a basis” for the resumption of direct peace talks is a badly needed foreign policy achievement for the Obama administration.
The talks are not yet finalized and seem unlikely to eventually succeed, but six months of shuttle diplomacy by Kerry is the first example of successful American diplomacy in the Middle East in several years.
The difficulties Kerry faced in simply getting the two sides to resume talks three years after the last round collapsed shows how difficult the path ahead will be. The negotiations are so sensitive that he and other American officials refused to release details of the agreement on Friday.
“The agreement is still in the process of being formalized,” Kerry said, “so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now.”
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that a release of Palestinian prisoners was a key element of the tentative agreement. In his announcement, Kerry said that “if everything goes as planned” the talks would begin in “a week or so” in Washington.