Israeli hardliners voice objections as Kerry intensifies pressure
JERUSALEM — Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition partners on Sunday stepped up pressure on the Israeli prime minister, threatening to topple the government if he caves in to American pressure to accept a key Palestinian territorial demand in U.S.-backed peace talks.
The warnings came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took a brief break after three days of talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, jetting off to the Arab world to discuss his efforts before an expected return to Jerusalem later Sunday.
In a sign that Kerry is intensifying the pressure, a Palestinian official confirmed that the secretary asked Abbas to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. Abbas has repeatedly rejected this Israeli demand, saying it would compromise the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel’s Arab minority. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Kerry has barred the sides from discussing the negotiations in public.
Kerry was meeting with the leaders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday, possibly to win Arab backing for any Palestinian concessions.
Before departing, Kerry told reporters that had he made some progress in his marathon talks over the weekend. He praised both Abbas and Netanyahu for making “difficult decisions.”
1 person killed and 2 injured, 1 severely, in Aspen plane crash
DENVER — A fiery plane crash at the Aspen airport Sunday afternoon killed one person and injured two others, one severely, Colorado authorities said.
The three were the only ones aboard the plane, said Thomas Wright, a dispatcher with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. One of those hurt had injuries that were not serious.
Ginny Dyche, a spokeswoman for Aspen Valley Hospital, said the facility admitted two patients who were involved in the crash. She said they were still being evaluated, but she declined to release any other information.
Allen Kenitzer, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the aircraft appeared to be a Bombardier Challenger 600, a midsized private jet.
FAA spokesman said the plane was headed from Tucson, Ariz., and crashed upon landing. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach airport officials in Colorado and Arizona were not immediately successful.
Pope to travel to Holy Land, Jordan amid new US-backed peace push
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says his upcoming trip to the Holy Land aims to boost relations with Orthodox Christians. But the three-day visit in May also underscores Francis’ close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims and the Vatican’s longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The announcement was made Sunday just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new U.S. bid for peace.
Francis told thousands gathered in the rain for his weekly Sunday blessing that he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26. It is the only papal trip confirmed so far for 2014 and the second foreign trip of Francis’ pontificate, following his 2013 visit to Brazil for World Youth Day.
Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, will be the fourth pope to visit the Holy Land after Paul VI’s landmark visit in 1964.
In his Christmas address, Francis singled out the Holy Land for prayers, saying “Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”
By wire sources