An senior Israeli official was quoted by Israeli TV Channel 2 on Friday night asserting that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was to blame for the breakdown in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, reports the Times of Israel. “He’s responsible for the crisis,” the unnamed official said.
Apparently, Kerry inaccurately represented to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel would be willing to release Israeli Arabs along with West Bank security prisoners in a prisoner-release, when Israel had never agreed to do so. There was also some difference between the sides about how many prisoners would go free. The secretary had months to try to resolve the discrepancies but failed to do so, the report said.
Israel has released West Bank Palestinian prisoners convicted of acts of terror who are not Israeli citizens as a condition for Palestinian participation in peace talks. But Israel has drawn the line at releasing convicted Israeli Arab prisoners, who are full-fledged citizens of Israel, as part of any deal with the Palestinian leadership.
Many in Israel consider the demand for the release of Israeli Arabs to be a challenge to Israeli sovereignty over Arab-inhabited areas of Israeli territory.
According to the report, Kerry eventually acknowledged to Israel that he’d “made a mistake here” on the issue of Israeli Arab terror convicts, and discussion began on a complex deal under which the US would free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, Israel would release the Israeli Arab and other prisoners in the final group, as well as hundreds more lower-profile prisoners, and the Palestinians would halt all unilateral moves toward statehood and agree to continue peace talks.
But that deal was derailed when Abbas applied to join 15 UN and other international treaties last week in breach of the terms of the negotiations. Days of frenzied contacts have so far failed to achieve any agreement on continuing the talks.
Last week, it what is now known as his “Poof” speech, Kerry assigned primary blame for the collapse of the talks on Israel for failing to release a scheduled fourth and final group of security prisoners at the end of March, and then for announcing new building plans in Jerusalem.
“The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day, and then 700 units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof — that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said.