WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry signaled Friday that he may scale back his intense effort to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace in view of the two sides' "unhelpful actions" in recent days.
With the parties at an impasse, Kerry said it was "reality-check time" because "there are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward."
Though neither side has called off the talks, "we are not going to sit there indefinitely," Kerry said during a news conference in Morocco, where he stopped at the end of a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe. "It is not an open-ended effort."
Kerry's eight-month campaign has teetered on the edge of collapse in recent days as Israel has refused to release more Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinians have formally applied to join 15 international organizations in hopes of using membership to apply new diplomatic pressure on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two sides have been trying to negotiate the creation of a separate Palestinian state.
The collapse of the talks would be a personal blow to Kerry, who has devoted much time and energy to the peacemaking effort, and to the Obama administration.
However, many analysts believe it is more likely that the effort will not be abandoned but simply assigned a lower priority, an approach that would reduce the risk of an outbreak of Palestinian violence and allow the parties to seek progress on secondary issues.
Kerry has won praise for his focus on the peacemaking effort, which the administration believes is a key to resolving other related Middle East crises. But recently he has been the target of criticism for giving the long-shot effort top priority at the expense of other U.S. national security goals, and he acknowledged in his news conference that the administration faces many urgent challenges, including Ukraine, Iran and Syria.