US Secretary of State John Kerry, although reportedly planning to intensify peace talks, does not expect to achieve a “big breakthrough” during his trip to the region this week, a senior State Department official said.

Kerry is “starting the new year with a special effort to try to move the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations forward,” the Washington-based official said.

Israeli and Palestinian politicians on Tuesday staked out “red lines” they claimed their leaders would never cross. The framework was not an American plan that would be imposed on the parties, a Washington spokesman said; rather, it would outline the end goal of the negotiations, rather than being an interim agreement.

Kerry’s trip, according to the same source, would provide “a basis upon which one could negotiate the final peace treaty, because the outlines or the guidelines for what the final deal would look like would be agreed upon, and then you would work intensively to fill out the details.”

“We have established very well where the gaps are, but also generated some ideas that could help to serve as ways of bridging those gaps,” he explained. Kerry’s “trip this time is to start to test those ideas with the two leaders.”

US officials cautioned they were not expecting major progress on this trip, which comes hours after Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas threatened to take legal and diplomatic action to halt Israeli building in Judea and Samaria, which he termed a “cancer.”

“We will not remain patient as the settlement cancer spreads, especially in Jerusalem, and we will use our right as a UN observer state by taking political, diplomatic and legal action to stop it,” Abbas stated.

Commenting on Abbas’s remarks, the State Department official told AFP, “The settlement activity that has been going on has created a lot of questions on the Palestinian side and in the international community about the intentions of the government of Israel.”

Another point of contention in recent days has become the Jordan Valley, which Israel insists is essential to its continued security.

The PA reacted to a vote on Sunday by Israeli lawmakers to annex the region with outrage, and with Abbas calling it a “red line.”

In a televised New Year’s Eve speech, Abbas said he would “not hesitate for a moment to say no, regardless of the pressure, to any proposal that contradicts or sidesteps the national interests of our people.”

Author: United with Israel staff
Date: Jan. 1, 2014