After three years of political stalemate, Secretary of State Kerry has overcome great obstacles and defied expectations to return Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Kerry has brought the parties to the starting line of a marathon with a clear end goal: the achievement of a two-state peace agreement in nine-months time. And although a long, difficult road lies ahead, the stakes are too high to turn back now.

The details of these negotiations will likely remain secret as the parties delve into the the core issues to resolve their conflict. But we are eager to seize this window, organizing at the national and local level to galvanize support for the two-state solution and pushing our leaders to embrace Kerry’s initiative. Nowhere will this be more critical than at our national conference in September, a rallying point for all pro-Israel, pro-peace advocates seeking to join Kerry’s “great constituency for peace.”

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Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the Chief Negotiators for an Iftar dinner to mark the resumption of peace talks

Top News

Kerry, Abbas meet in London to review peace efforts, Times of Israel. Secretary of State Kerry and President Abbas met in London on Sunday to review progress in the peace process and how best to proceed with the recently resumed direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The three-hour meeting at the Ritz Hotel marked the first time the two men have sat together since negotiations restarted in early August.

Arab League ministers backing US peace efforts, JTA. After meeting with Kerry, Representatives of the Arab League’s Peace Initiative Committee expressed support for American efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Syria, Egypt turmoil nudges Israel, Palestinians toward peace, Reuters. A senior US State Department official said Syria's civil war, as well as upheaval in Egypt, gives Israelis and Palestinians an incentive to end their conflict. "Both sides have made clear to us and to each other that they do not want the turmoil to engulf them and that therefore it motivates them to try to resolve their conflict to prevent that from happening," the official told reporters.

Israelis and Palestinians meet for fresh round of talks, Times of Israel. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met Tuesday in the latest round of talks to hammer out a peace agreement. An unnamed Palestinian official said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat attended the meeting, the Ma’an news agency reported . The official added that both sides presented their view on final status issues but noted that no agreement has yet been reached. It was the fifth meeting between the two sides since negotiations resumed in July. On Sunday a State Department spokesperson said that Middle East Envoy Martin Indyk has been present at one of the meetings.

As talks begin, Palestinians reach out to Israel, Associated Press. Hoping to persuade skeptical Israeli decision makers that they are serious about peace, leading Palestinian politicians have been holding a series of meetings with their Israeli counterparts.

Livni and Erekat talk peace before Kalandiya violence, Jerusalem Post. Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met Monday morning before the shooting deaths of three Palestinians in Qalandiyah, the reason Israeli officials declined throughout the day to confirm claims by Palestinian officials that the talks were called off because of the incident. According to the report, Israel has made clear in the talks – which have been described as “serious” – that it was willing to talk about land swaps and the Jordan Valley.

Abbas: Peace deal will mean end of Palestinian demands of Israel, Haaretz. In a meeting with Knesset members from Meretz, President Abbas called for accelerated negotiations with Israel and said he was willing to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in higher level peace talks. “I don’t know what Netanyahu’s intentions are and what’s going through his head”, he said, “but I have my opposition too and there were demonstrations here against the renewal of negotiations. I respect the demonstrators but I’m determined and serious about making progress towards achieving peace. Without peace there will be tragedies here." Abbas said that he intends to put any agreement to a referendum and that he’s convinced that a majority of Palestinians will support it.

Talks to resume as Israel frees Palestinians, pursues settlements, Reuters. Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners as negotiators prepared to meet quietly in Jerusalem. Paving the way for the continuation of peace talks, Israel released an initial number of Palestinians serving long jail terms, many for deadly attacks on Israelis, bussing them in the dead of night to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. They were welcomed by hundreds of Palestinians including President Abbas, who kissed some of the men and flashed victory signs.

Israel strikes two Gaza sites hours before start of talks, New York Times. In the hours before peace talks were to start, Israeli warplanes struck two sites in Gaza in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal territory against southern Israel the night before. There were no casualties on either side, but the events underlined the continued potential for confrontation in the volatile area after weeks of relative quiet.

Obama speaks with Palestinians’ Abbas, Israel’s Netanyahu, Reuters. The White House said that Obama spoke separately by phone to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, to underscore “that while the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead, the United States will support them fully in their efforts to achieve peace.”

In Knesset, an upbeat start for a shadow peace summit, Times of Israel. Over one-quarter of the Knesset took part in an unprecedented meeting, which brought together the Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Dialogue Committee to show support for new peace talks. For the first time, the Knesset gathering saw the flag of Israel and the Palestinian flag standing side by side in Israel’s parliament.

Obama speaks with Palestinians’ Abbas, Israel’s Netanyahu, Haaretz. The US reportedly gave the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams letters of assurance which outlined the US position vis-à-vis the peace talks, their conduct and their goals. A US official said the letters clarified that the American position is that negotiations should be carried out on the basis of pre-1967 lines with land swaps, that Israel is a Jewish state and that Palestinian refugees should return to the future Palestinian state.

Top Analysis

Peace Talks Continue Despite Rising Mideast Tensions, Al Monitor. Ben Caspit suggests, “Maybe all the upheavals occurring in the world provide some kind of advantage to the current round of talks. With everyone paying such rapt attention to the goings-on in Egypt and Syria, and with the concurrent lack of public interest in the talks, there is far less pressure on the negotiators, who have plenty of room to maneuver without fear of being interrupted. Who knows? We may yet see white smoke rising from the chimney to hover above the gloomy war clouds.”

The believer, The Daily Beast. In interviews with Ben Birnbaum, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni stressed, “When I make decisions, I’m not thinking about my parents. I’m thinking about my children.”

Abbas has proven he's a partner for peace, Haaretz. According to the Haaretz editorial board, “The meeting in Ramallah on Thursday between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a Meretz party delegation once again underlined the fact that Israel does have a partner for peace talks. With a series of important, courageous statements, Abbas proved that the Palestinians have a pragmatic leader who aspires to a peace agreement and is willing to take meaningful measures in order to create a new and better situation in the region.”

Shortsighted thinking on Israeli settlements, New York Times. “No one is under any illusions that reaching a peace agreement will be easy,” said The New York Times editorial board. “Both sides must summon the courage to tackle extremely sensitive issues, like settlements. [Prime Minister] Netanyahu can show his by freezing the construction bids before any actual building begins.”

Peace talks, settlements and smirking into the abyss, Huffington Post. Lara Friedman argued that the “stakes are simply too high to give in to cynicism and defeatism. Instead, we should recall the words of Yitzhak Rabin, who famously said that he would ‘fight terrorism as if there is no peace process’ and ‘pursue peace as if there is no terrorism.’ In today's context, Rabin's formula applies equally to settlements: we must fight settlement expansion as if there are no peace negotiations, and we must pursue peace at the negotiating table, even in the face of settlement provocations.”

Kerry's big-bang Mideast diplomacy, Washington Post. Praising Secretary of State Kerry’s peace initiative, David Ignatius says that “what Kerry has done, in effect, is get the two sides to grab hold of a stick of dynamite. If they can’t defuse it within nine months through an agreement, it’s going to blow up.”

Obama speaks with Palestinians’ Abbas, Israel’s Netanyahu, Los Angeles Times. According to Daniel Kurtzer and Gilead Sher, “Kerry must be agile, creative and determined in the tactical moves that lie ahead. Steps, including constructive unilateral ones, that create a reality of ‘two states for two people’ should be gradually implemented even before an agreement is reached. Strong US parameters, and US insistence that the parties negotiate on the basis of these parameters, along with equal US determination to exact consequences for the failure of the parties to engage is the best way forward.”

The Negotiators

The Americans The Palestinians The Israelis

Martin Indyk is a veteran Middle East peace negotiator, having previously served in his current position as special envoy and as ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration. He helped to found the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and until recently served as vice president of the Brookings Institution. He is the author of “Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East.”

Saeb Erekat, a senior member of President Abbas’ Fatah movement, has led or been part of all Palestinian delegations since peace talks with Israel were launched at the 1991 Madrid Conference. Abbas has praised Erekat's institutional memory, saying his top aide can recall any accord or document linked to the talks.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister and chief negotiator, played a key role in the last sustained round of peace talks as then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s foreign minister. Though raised a hard-line nationalist, she has become a prominent advocate of a two-state solution and was the only senior politician in the 2013 election to argue that Israel must make solving its conflict with the Palestinians its top priority.

Frank Lowenstein, considered to be one of Secretary of State Kerry’s closest advisors, accompanied Kerry on his shuttle diplomacy trips to Israel and worked in the office of then- Envoy for Middle East Peace David Hale.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, an economist, served as Abbas’ cabinet minister and helped to negotiate the 1994 Paris Protocol defining economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Yitzhak Molcho has been a trusted envoy of successive Israeli prime ministers to negotiations with the Palestinians since 1996. He is a longtime friend of Prime Minister Netanyahu and tends to avoid the limelight.

(Credit: Associated Press)

Peace Initiative Timeline

The Core Issues for Negotiation