Israel Will Not Release Prisoners, US Scrambling to Revive Talks

Israel Israel announced that they would not release the remaining fourth group of prisoners in response to Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to seek recognition for Palestine from the United Nations. Early Thursday morning, Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livini informed her Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat.

According to Livini, Israel’s decision to not free the last 26 prisoners, was because the Palestinians decided to seek international recognition at a time when they knew that Israel would back out of the deal, if they did so. Livini stated that, since the release of the remaining prisoners was conditional on Palestine not applying unilaterally to the UN, and that, “under these conditions, Israel can not release the fourth batch of prisoners,” and that now both sides have to figure out how to move forward with negotiations.

Secretary of State John Kerry was supposed to meet with Abbas in Ramallah  about the deal that would potentially free Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and free the remaining Palestinian prisoners, until Abbas went to the United Nations.

The United States has criticized both sides for their inability to cooperate during talks. Kerry stated that the United States will still do everything in its power to keep the peace talks alive, saying.“We will continue to, no matter what, to try to facilitate the capacity of people to be able to make peace.”  Livini stated that there will be no peace talks, if the Palestinians continued unilateral actions towards UN recognition, and called on the Palestinians to retract their actions and return to negotiations. Erekat stated that they were not approaching the UN on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, but rather on behalf of the internationally recognized state of Palestine.

However, the Israelis threatened endless sanctions against the Palestinians, to which Ekerat threatened to sue the Israelis as war criminals. Kerry signaled that the United States is prepared to continue to work with both sides, to reach a peace accord, but that it is ultimately in the hands of President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to said agreement, even stating that, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…,” and encouraged leaders on both sides saying that now is the time to drink.

On Thursday, Kerry said that he has been in contact with the American envoy that have been apart of the talks, and remains hopeful that a deal could still be done and that some headway has been made in addressing the questions that have been raised about the events of the past couple of days. He also said that it would be a shame if the ultimate goal of peace was derailed because the two sides were at an impasse over then steps needed to be taken to reach an agreement. “A fight over process, how to get into a negotiation, should not stop you from getting into that negotiation,” Kerry stated.

The Palestinian Authority submitted their list of demands if Israel wanted to continue peace negotiations through April 29th, which included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu writing a letter that recognized a June 1967 statement of Palestinian borders, which included East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians and freeing 1,200 prisoners.

By Nathaniel Pownell

The Jerusalem Post
The New York Times
Al Jazeera

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