The United States and Israel raised hopes Thursday for a restart of the Middle East peace process, despite little tangible progress so far from US Secretary of State John Kerry’s two-month-old effort to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
As they met in Jerusalem, Kerry praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the “seriousness” with which he is looking at ways to revitalize peace hopes. Kerry expressed optimism without outlining any concrete strategy for ending a stalemate between the two sides that has seen them hardly negotiate one-on-one at all over the last 4½ years.
“I know this region well enough to know there is skepticism, in some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it,” Kerry told reporters. “There have been bitter years of disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient — but detailed and tenacious — that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace.”
“That’s what we’re working towards,” said Kerry, who was to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later Thursday in Ramallah.
Gen. John Allen has been appointed special U.S. envoy on security issues in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He will not mediate between the parties; his work will almost exclusively involve contacts with Israel. Allen will deal with the U.S. position on Israeli security needs and the security arrangements that would accompany the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
Senior U.S. and Israeli officials note that while U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the appointment it was coordinated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is leading the effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"Allen has agreed to serve as a special adviser to the secretary of defense focusing on security in the context of Middle East peace," said a senior U.S. official who insisted on anonymity, adding, "His work will support Secretary Kerry's comprehensive efforts to find a way forward on Middle East peace."
For the past few months, the Federal Reserve has been squarely in the financial markets' corner, thanks to its massive dollops of monetary stimulus. But signs that the central bank is discussing reducing that support by purchasing fewer bonds mean that trading is likely to get bumpier in coming months.
The Fed's evolving stance was made apparent by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's remarks to Congress Wednesday, where he laid out the conditions that might cause the Fed to reduce its $85 billion a month buying of Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds.
U.S. stock and bond markets were whipsawed - the S&P 500 rose dramatically On Wednesday, only to fall sharply in its largest one-day point swing since early November, and bond yields rose above 2 percent to a 10-week high. On Thursday, both markets stabilized.
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