The Palestinian Authority announced that they will not seek to extend peace talks with Israel, which are set to end on April 29th, and threatened to discontinue cooperation with Israel in way of security measures if Israel imposes economic sanctions on Palestine due to their applications to 15 UN treaties.
On Thursday, the Israelis announced that it would freeze all taxes it collects from imports on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which total $1 billion annually unless the Palestinians retract their efforts to join the 15 UN treaties. However, negotiators representing the Palestinian National Authority refused to extend peace talks beyond April 29th unless Israel releases the final group of prisoners as promised. The Palestinians also demanded that Israel halt construction of settlements on the West Bank as well.
Since the two sides have met, there has not been an official statement from the Israeli government due to the observation of the Jewish holiday of Passover, however, state department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the development is unfortunate and that the taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial to both sides and is an important part of the Palestinian economy.
While both sides are blaming the other for the breakdown in negotiations, chief Israeli negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni blamed the right-wing fractions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet for the stall, citing that they have undermined her efforts due to their refusal to give the Palestinians significant concessions and their rejection of an independent Palestinian state and Housing Minister Uri Ariel for building Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory in the West Bank. Livni called Ariel out saying that there are people in the Israeli government that do not want peace, and that Ariel was one of those people.
Livni told Ynet that even though the talks seem to be on the brink of collapse, that she is optimistic that both sides will be able to come to an agreement, saying, “I believe we are close enough that decisions on both sides will be made, with American encouragement, to continue the talks,”
While Livni remains optimistic, her Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Ekerat remains more cautious, saying that the gaps between the two sides coming together in a peace agreement are still wide. The two sides have been meeting since Thursday with the help of American mediators to extend the talks past the 29th, however, the Palestinians say they will not extend the talks unless Israel follows through on their promises, namely the release of prisoners and the discontinuation of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
Since the end of March, when Israel was supposed to release the final batch of Palestinian prisoners and then reneged, the two sides have been engaged in a political tit-for-tat dance that has led to economic sanctions against Palestine and the Palestinians seeking international recognition and a stalemate in negotiations going forward. US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on both sides to make serious progress in the negotiations and has stated that due to the events over the past couple weeks, both sides need a “reality check” in order to get things going again.
Kerry has stated that the United States, and himself can not continue to put so much time in energy in facilitating the talks if both sides to not make serious progress to extend talks past the April 29th deadline.
By Nathaniel Pownell
The San Francisco Gate