Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. State Department Wednesday called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume direct talks stalled since 2010.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said 2012 is the time leaders of the two sides should demonstrate seriousness in achieving peace and security.
Nuland also urged Israel and PA to stop counter-productive actions, referring to the construction of Jewish settlements in disputed lands and observer state status sought and obtained by PA from the United Nations. She said making a fresh start in 2013 will require restraint from both sides, which figured in a violent confrontation late last year.
Direct negotiation was last held in September 2010 when Israel ended its 10-month freeze of settlement construction. Israel refused preconditions demanded by the PA as prerequisite for resuming peace talks. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said it will return to direct talks only if Israel stopped constructing Jewish settlements in areas claimed by the PA namely Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem.
Abbas also wants Israel to recognize the pre-1967 borders of Palestine and the release of Arab terrorists from Israel’s prisons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abbas back to the negotiating table several times, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who is being touted already as a likely 2016 presidential candidate, is visiting Israel for the first time on Sunday. Paul said he wants to understand why peace is elusive in the region.
Paul will meet Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres on Monday, the senator’s 50th birthday. He will also speak on fiscal responsibility and reducing U.S. foreign aid at a private reception at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies on Monday.
Paul clarified he is not against foreign aid to Israel, which receives some $3 billion in .U.S. military assistance every year.
The senator will also travel to Jordan on Tuesday and meet with Jordanian King Abdullah and Abbas. He plans to return to Israel on Wednesday and tour the Galilee.
The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that promotes fundamentalist Christian values, is sponsoring Paul’s trip. He will travel along with his family and some 100 evangelical Christians.