During the weeklong trip to the Middle East that ends on Saturday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) expressed guarded optimism that a framework for peace will be worked out between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and praised Secretary of State John Kerry for his work on the matter.
“This is the best chance we’ve had in quite some time,” Kaine said during a phone interview while still in the Middle East. “With all appropriate skepticism, I do detect a kind of practical optimism.”
Kaine, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and Central and South Asian Affairs and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, traveled with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) from Feb. 14 to 22 on an official trip authorized by the Senate.
“It’s been amazing,” Kaine said of the journey, while admitting many challenges must be overcome before a two-state solution is reached.
Peace talks stand a better chance of success than they have in past years because of a formula being worked out by the United States, argued the senator. Rather than tackle one or two issues successfully and then break off talks totally when an agreement can’t be reached on the next issue, Kerry plans to present a framework that is meant to be used as a basis for a final agreement, Kaine said, adding he
believes that the trust building between
Israel and the Palestinian Authority will grow as issues in the framework are
That framework should be presented to both sides by the end of March or the
beginning of April, Kaine said.
“Both sides view the formal [relationship] as positive,” according to Kaine. However, he quickly added, “they think it’s going to be hard. We are getting to a moment of truth.”
After speaking with the leadership of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he believes that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brings a proposal for a two-state solution to the Knesset, “there is a significant majority willing to support it.” Then, if the Knesset gives its approval, policymakers “feel the Israeli public will support it,” Kaine stated.
On Monday, Kaine met with Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. During the meetings, Kaine and King reaffirmed the United States’ support for Israel, including military assistance and intelligence sharing, and discussed ways to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon capability, events in Syria and security problems in the Sinai.
The Virginia junior senator, who is not among the majority of senators who have co-sponsored the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, also met with Knesset members Yehiel Hilik Bar and Omer Barlev and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and P.A. chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
During those talks, Kaine spoke of his support of the two-state solution.
Kaine also met with a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs and visited a Palestinian software company supported in part by funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Kaine also was to visit Egypt, where he planned to speak with interim President Adly Mansour, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as youth leaders, opposition party members and civil activists.