Secretary of State John Kerry forged a new tack toward peace in the Middle East with a group of Arab delegates Monday, hours after the Israeli military fired rockets into Gaza in what it says was retribution for a militant attack.
Representatives from the Arab League met with the chief U.S. diplomat and Vice President Joe Biden at the State Department Monday afternoon to restart a strategy to establish Palestine as its own country and solidify a relationship with neighboring Israel.
One of the delegates said the meeting injected newfound vigor into forging an enduring peace.
"The intention of the mission of the delegation is to highlight the fact that it is due time for the international community and the U.S. to work in order to put an end to the Israeli occupation and to work for the creation of the Palestinian state," Riyad al-Maliki, foreign affairs minister to the Palestinian National Authority, told a group of reporters Monday.
"We should not waste time trying to revive or reactivate the so-called peace process," al-Maliki said. "We intend to go to the main objective, which is to put an end to the Palestinian suffering and end the occupation and allow the Palestinian people to have their own viable, independent state."
Israeli officials say they are ready to talk peace with the Palestinian Authority.
"We regard the United States as a crucial partner in our search for peace with the Palestinians,” said Aaron Sagui, a spokesman with the Israeli embassy in Washington. “We welcome a creative and active American role, and we support Secretary Kerry's efforts to try to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table."
The secretary of state offered "a very clear commitment on his side and the side of President Barack Obama" to establish peace in the region, al-Maliki said.
"We felt that Secretary [Kerry] is very serious, very committed," he said.
Al-Maliki said he and the other delegates expect another meeting in four to six weeks to further discuss implementing the Arab Peace Initiative, a plan first unveiled in 2002 that calls for permanent Palestinian borders based on how they existed prior to June 4, 1967.
Kerry said on Monday the Arab League would play a "very important role" in this peace process.
The summit followed Israeli rocket strikes on Sunday aimed at Hamas weapons storage facilities. Gaza health officials say nobody was injured.
The Israeli military said it was responding to rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel from the night before. Those rockets landed in an open field and caused no injuries.
The Muslim Salafi group, a shadowy extremist organization, is believed to have been behind the attacks. Israel generally blames Hamas for any attacks that originate from within the Palestinian territory.
The U.N. secretary general endorsed on Monday the newfound spirit of negotiation from the Arab states, but stressed that discussions will not be enough to see through to a lasting peace.
"Now is the time for concerted action," U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a message delivered to the UN International Meeting on the Question of Palestine.
4/30/13: This story has been updated to include comments from the embassy of Israel.