U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Rome Sunday ahead of talks on the Middle East peace process, or what is left of it. But if America genuinely wants to be seen as a broker for peace, it is rapidly running out of time in which to prove that it is not only concerned with Israel’s wishes.
Kerry arrives in Europe as sympathy for the Palestinian cause is increasing across the continent, both on the street and at a political level. In recent weeks, parliaments in France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Ireland have recommended that their governments formally recognize Palestine, and Sweden has taken that further step.
These steps have left the U.S. in an awkward position, and it has still yet to declare whether or not it would use its veto were a U.N. resolution on Palestinian statehood recognition to come up soon. Officials have also implied it is not yet set in stone how the U.S. would vote whether a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem and the West Bank was introduced, Jordan having last month circulated a draft motion scheduling November 2016 as a deadline.
Before meeting Kerry Monday, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu was characteristically combative Sunday, declaring that Israel would rebuff any moves to be constrained to a timetable for withdrawal.
In meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu, the tension between the two is palpable. It is about time that American frustrations with Israel translate into difficult questions for the Israelis and changes on the ground for the Palestinians, who have only lost time, land and patience over the last 60 years.