In 1st response to Kerry’s pointing blame only on Israel for talks failure, Jerusalem says, ‘remarks hurt the negotiation’ process.
Israel said on Wednesday that it was “deeply disappointed” by Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks Tuesday, placing the blame for derailing the negotiations on Israel’s approval of more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, The New York Times reported.
Israel responded that it was the Palestinians who had “violated their fundamental commitments” by applying last week to join 15 international agencies of the UN.
Kerry’s remarks “will both hurt the negotiations and harden Palestinian positions,” said an official in the office of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking on the condition of anonymity, to the New York Times.
“Secretary Kerry,” the official said, “knows that it was the Palestinians who said ‘no’ to continued direct talks with Israel in November; who said ‘no’ to his proposed framework for final status talks; who said ‘no’ to even discussing recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; who said ‘no’ to a meeting with Kerry himself; and who said ‘no’ to an extension of the talks.”
He added, “At the same time, in the understandings reached prior to the talks, Israel did not commit to any limitation on construction. Therefore, the Palestinian claim that building in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, was a violation of the understandings is contrary to the facts. Both the American negotiating team and the Palestinians know full well that Israel made no such commitment.”
Arab foreign ministers gathered on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was “wholly responsible for the dangerous stalemate” in the talks.
Netanyahu earlier has ordered his ministers to limit all but diplomatic and security contact with their Palestinian counterparts, a government official said Wednesday, dealing another blow to faltering peace talks.
“In response to the Palestinian violation of their commitments under peace talks…Israel government ministers have been told to refrain from meeting their Palestinian counterparts,” the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Labor Chairman and opposition leader Isaac Herzog criticized the government’s decision: “The prime minister is handing petrol and flammable materials to the last of Israel’s haters,” said Herzog.
“It’s not clear what good will come of this superfluous move of cutting off relations with the Palestinian Authority,” he added. “In fact, it’s quite clear what damage will come of this step. It will harm the interests of the state of Israel and its economic sector.”
“The prime minister has begun a process of disengagement between Israel the world. This is the result of frustration and helplessness, and the prime minister of Israel’s lack of ability to operate within a plan and reached any sort of achievement in that realm. Frustration and helplessness are not diplomatic policy,” he said.
Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz (Hatnuah) said the move was “useless” and “deserving of prior discussion.”
“I intend to ask the prime minister to hold an in-depth discussion on the significance and implications of this decision,” he said.
Palestinian minister of labor Ahmad Majdalani dismissed the significance of Israel’s tactic.
“In any case there are no (regular) meetings organised between Palestinian and Israeli ministers, apart from the finance ministers,” he told AFP.
“Ninety percent of day-to-day dealings are done with the Israeli military administration” of the West Bank, Majdalani added.
Hamas called on the Palestinian President to “unleash the resistance” in the West Bank against Israel. In an official statement released by Spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas said “Abbas is obligated to allow the unleashing of resistance, in order to deter the Israeli occupier and to defend our people, our land and our holy sites.”
“Netanyahu’s move today proves that there is not place for the negotiations and there is a danger to continue them under any pretense,” the statement read.
Earlier on Wednesday Chinese President Xi Jinping advised Israel to make “brave decisions” with regards to the Middle East peace talks.
“[China] hopes that Israel keeps in mind the broader picture of peace, shows strategic wisdom, makes brave decisions as early as possible, and pushes, along with the international community and Palestinians, for substantive progress on peace talks,” Xi told Israeli President Shimon Peres during his visit to China, according to a Reuters report.
Although China has traditionally played a low-profile role in the peace talks, the government has been eagerly trying to assert itself as a major player in the international arena.
‘Israeli settlements to blame for impasse’
Kerry said Tuesday that Israel’s approval of new settlements scuppered an opportunity for progress in peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Israeli government announced the construction of 700 apartments in the disputed Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo on the heels of its failure to free Palestinian prisoners by March 29 as it had committed to do. In response, the Palestinians applied for membership to 15 international organizations and treaties, just as Washington was scrambling for a way to get the two sides to extend peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline.
While Kerry blamed intransigence on both sides, he told US lawmakers that a delayed Israeli plan to release several Palestinian prisoners as part of a good faith effort was sabotaged by the settlements move.
“In the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment,” he said, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before meeting with US President Barack Obama.
“We find ourselves where we are,” added Kerry, who has met repeatedly with both sides.
‘Boycott Israeli settlement products’
The same day, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told a UN meeting that products originating from Israeli settlements should be boycotted in order to pressure the Israeli government to move ahead with peace talks.
Mansour warned that should Israel be unwilling to negotiate “in good faith,” the Palestinians would have “to move into the next stage of holding them accountable for all of their illegal behavior in all fronts, politically, diplomatically and legally,” according to a Ynet news report.
The envoy also said that the Palestinians would apply for membership to additional international agencies if Israel chose to retaliate for its previous applications to 15 UN accords.
“If they want to escalate further and try to illegally punish us for doing something legal, we are ready and willing to send the second barrage, the third barrage and more of what legally we could do,” Mansour said during the UN meeting.
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