BRITAIN and the US have combined to heap fresh pressure on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to kick-start the Middle East peace process by telling them to make "hard decisions" soon or face losing the chance of a two-state solution.
At the end of a simultaneous two-day visit to the region yesterday, William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, lent support to John Kerry, Barack Obama's secretary of state, by warning the sides they had only weeks to grasp the opportunity.
The pleas came as Mr Kerry wound up his fourth visit in two months without any discernible hint of a breakthrough.
He said it was now up to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, to make a decisive move. "We are reaching the time (when) leaders need to make hard decisions," he said.
His comments came after Mr Hague said that "the two-state solution is slipping away" and urging both sides to show "bold leadership" by resuming talks.
Mr Hague admitted he was unable to say if Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas were ready to re-engage after meeting the two leaders, although he said both were "extremely focused".
He added: "I don't think we are in a position to say that necessary compromises have already been made . . . (But) after many discussions, clearly we are getting nearer now to everyone having to decide whether they are going to be really serious about this. And that moment is quite close."
Although Mr Netanyahu recently bowed to US pressure by instructing officials to refrain from publishing tenders for new homes in larger settlements, the chances of a long-term freeze are remote given that the new Israeli cabinet includes settlers and their supporters in senior ministerial positions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)