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Kerry aims to revive peace talks

| Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 8:48 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday, hoping to breathe life into peace talks that have quickly run into trouble.

Three months since the U.S.-brokered talks began, there have been no visible signs of progress. Both sides have reverted to a pattern of finger-pointing. With the talks set to end in April, the deadlock is raising speculation that the United States may need to step up its involvement and present its own blueprint for peace early next year, or perhaps lower expectations and pursue a limited, interim agreement.

Underscoring the challenge, a Palestinian official said that a secret negotiating session broke down in an acrimonious dispute over Israeli settlement construction.

The parties have largely honored Kerry's request to keep the content of the negotiations secret. But officials on both sides have acknowledged that no progress has been made, though they say that the talks have addressed all key issues at the core of the dispute. These include defining the borders of a Palestine statte and addressing Israeli security demands.

The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. They say they're willing to adjust borders to allow Israel to keep some West Bank settlements in a “land swap.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes a withdrawal to Israel's pre-1967 lines, saying such borders would be indefensible.

He has demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, a condition they reject on the grounds that it would harm the rights of Israel's Arab minority and Palestinian refugees who claim lost properties inside what is now Israel. Netanyahu also rejects shared control of East Jerusalem.

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