President Barack Obama will not bring a peace plan to Israel and the Palestinian Territories next month, but rather intends to listen, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.
Obama’s plan to visit has raised speculation of a new U.S. push to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, stalled since 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
But Kerry, speaking to German students during his first foreign trip as Washington’s top diplomat, played down expectations.
“We’re not going to go and sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do,” Kerry said. “I want to consult and the president wants to listen.”
Obama, who has a testy relationship with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made peace between Israelis and Palestinians a priority in his first term but, four years later, has little to show for it.
In recent months, each side has antagonized the other – Israel by building Jewish settlements on occupied land and the Palestinians by seeking enhanced status at the United Nations.
Kerry said that after Obama’s trip, which also includes a stop in Jordan, the United States would see how it might pursue peace. He urged all sides to behave calmly and keep the possibility of peace alive.
Tensions have risen in the West Bank, territory that the Palestinians want to be part of a future state including the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, after the death of a Palestinian in an Israeli jail on Saturday in contested circumstances.
A hunger strike by four other Palestinian prisoners has also fuelled violent protests.
“We really hope everybody will step back a little and try to find a way to proceed very calmly and very thoughtfully in these next days (and) leave the opportunities for peaceful resolution open,” Kerry said.