US Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly cancelled his trip to Ramallah in response to a move by Mahmoud Abbas and the PA to formally request to join a number of UN Agencies. Talks to reach a deal to extend peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been inching along, but now appear to have hit a potential stand-still. As the latest series of events is concerned, it appears that after Israel approved 700 new units across the Green Line, Abbas and the PA decided to sign some documents hinting at a move towards the UN. Shortly after the signing, Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled his scheduled Wednesday trip to Ramallah.
Although reports have circulated that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority had already turned to the UN and formally applied to be a part of multiple treaties, Kerry attempted to restore some semblance of confidence by repeating that Abbas had given his word that he would be willing to negotiate through April. The cancellation of Kerry’s trip took place just hours after a demonstration by Abbas of signing a number of treaties which the Palestinians are interested in joining. It appears however that, although reports vary, the PA has not officially submitted the requests to the UN at present.
Israel views the move as some last minute posturing the Palestinians in order to sweeten any potential deal in their favor. The document signing demonstration by Abbas came on the heels of an approval by Israel for 700 new housing units to be built in a Jerusalem community across the Green Line. Secretary of State Kerry has stated, “we encourage both sides to show restraint.”
Adding to the complexity of the current situation is the case of Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew who was imprisoned for espionage in the mid-1980’s. Pollard’s release has been discussed as part of a potential deal which would address Pollard, Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for terrorism, and additional housing expansion across the Green Line by Israel. At present, no official word has been given from US representatives or the White House as to whether Pollard’s release is actually on the negotiating table or not. Despite the fact that discussion regarding the possible release of Pollard has found its way into the international media, as being a potential piece to extending the middle-east peace process, the White House remained mute regarding Pollard and any potential release.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney, in a very brief discussion of the topic, said that US President Barack Obama had not made any decision to release the convicted Israeli spy. Carney further stated that, “Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage and he is serving his sentence.” Spokesman Carney went on to say, “I don’t have any other update to provide you on Mr. Pollard’s status. There are obviously a lot of things happening in that arena and I am not going to get ahead of discussions that are under way.” Despite the tight-lipped stance of the White House on the topic, Pollard’s unconfirmed possible release as part of a larger potential deal to extend peace talks has made a small buzz in international media.
It is yet unclear what exactly will happen with Kerry, Abbas, and Israel in the near future. The latest series of events however is that shortly after Israel approved 700 units across the Green Line, Abbas and the PA signed documents hinting at a move towards the UN. Shortly after the document signing, Kerry had cancelled a scheduled Wednesday trip to Ramallah. At this point, it appears that only time will tell how the latest plot-twist to the negotiations will turn out, however it seems clear that Kerry will have his hands full in navigating the latest issues in the delicate middle-east negotiations.
By Daniel Worku