U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry placed most of the blame on Israel for the recent crisis in peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian delegations during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, reports Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
Kerry implied that Israel is mostly responsible for the crisis in talks, and described the Palestinian application to 15 United Nations institutions, a violation of the terms of the negotiations, as a response to Israeli moves.
“Clearly, [Palestinians] going to these [U.N.] treaties is not helpful, and we have made that crystal-clear,” he said. “Unfortunately, prisoners were not released [by Israel] on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day one went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then 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. We find ourselves where we are.”
Kerry did not mention the already-doomed state of the negotiations by that “poof” point. The Palestinians had already refused to sign on to his proposed framework for future talks even though it assumed the 1967 lines that they demand as the basis for borders.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had already effectively ended any chance for an agreement when he issued his “three No’s” to President Obama last month: No recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; No compromise on the “right-of-return” to Israel of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees; and No agreement to end to the conflict with Israel once and for all.
Since the talks began last summer, after Abbas insisted on the release of over 100 terrorist murderers as a condition just to return to the negotiating table, the Palestinians haven’t offered a single concession on a single material issue.
The “700 settlement units” Kerry blamed for the talks collapse refers to an Israeli decision to build additional apartments in Gilo–a 40-year-old established Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem that would not change hands in any imaginable peace treaty. It is an area where Israel has never promised to stop building, even during an earlier settlement construction-freeze.
Kerry likely blamed Israel for the talks’ failure in a calculated hope that he can again entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. In addition, placing blame on Israel may give Kerry future leverage to demand more concessions from Israel likely to be insisted upon by Abbas as preconditions for further negotiations.