US Secretary of State John Kerry continues to urge compromise on both sides notwithstanding a clear breakdown in peace talks.
Despite what looks like the near-collapse of the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, American Secretary of State John Kerry – clearly frustrated – has not acknowledged defeat.
Instead, he blamed both sides for the breakdown in negotiations and continued to urge compromise.
A caustic nine-hour meeting between the PA and Israeli teams, headed by PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, ended Thursday morning. According to Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency, sources described the meeting, which US envoy Martin Indyk mediated, as a “fierce political battle” that concluded with no agreement.
Peace Talks ‘Ended in Failure’
The meeting, in fact, “ended in failure,” sources told Ma’an.
Israeli daily Ha’aretz quoted Kerry as saying that the meeting achieved a measure of progress, although gaps remain.
“We are here to negotiate in the name of the UN-recognized State of Palestine, not in the name of a Palestinian Authority whose inputs and outputs are controlled by Israel,” Erekat stated at the meeting, Ma’an reported.
In turn, the Israelis warned of debilitating sanctions if the PA continues with unilateral bids for statehood at the United Nations, and Erekat threatened to try Israeli leaders as “war criminals” at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Indyk was “unable to contain” Livni and Erekat, “with both shouting threats and even curses at each other,” according to a report in the Lebanese Al-Miadian newspaper.
“Indyk was forced to stop the talks several times in order to give both time to cool off – but to no avail, as the arguing and eventual shouting began almost immediately when the talks resumed,” Israel National News said, based on the Lebanese report.
US Legislators Question Palestinian Aid
Meanwhile, US lawmakers, including Republicans and Democrats, suggested cutting the 400-million dollars in annual aid to the PA, slamming PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for applying on Wednesday for membership in UN organizations as the “State of Palestine” – a unilateral move in response to Israel’s decision not to release Palestinian terrorists from prison over the weekend, as originally scheduled. The Israelis were reacting to a seeming lack of compromise on the Palestinian side, in particular to the PA’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, head of Israel’s negotiating team, faulted the Palestinian move at the UN for the gridlock.
“If they want a state, they have to understand that it can happen only at the negotiating table,” she commented on her Facebook page.
PA Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe warned that Palestinian applications to join international conventions are only the beginning, Israel Hayom said.
“Our next steps will include steps to delegitimize Israel, during which we will ask that our prisoners be recognized as political prisoners in an occupied country,” Qaraqe asserted.
Senior PA officials are now demanding that further peace talks – if they indeed continue – focus only on defining borders for a future Palestinian state.
By: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, United with Israel