U.S. officials say Kerry is primarily interested in gauging what the Israelis and the Palestinians are willing to do to restart direct negotiations that have been mostly frozen for the past 4 1/2 years. He’ll meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Trying to avoid raising expectations unrealistically, Nuland said Kerry’s trip isn’t the start of a new era of shuttle diplomacy, a concept that got its start with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during his regular travels back-and-forth to end the 1973 Mideast War and secure peace between Israel and some of its neighbors. Similar efforts took place under later secretaries James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher and Condoleezza Rice.
But it undeniably marks a shift after President Barack Obama largely kept the Arab-Israeli conflict at arm’s length during his first term. Despite publicly challenging Israel to halt settlement construction in disputed territory and becoming the first U.S. president to publicly endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the basis of a two-state solution, Obama and Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, presented no grand peace plan and failed to produce any sustained, high-level diplomacy between the Israelis and the Palestinians.