U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Monday in an attempt to save collapsing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In a matter of hours, the PA issued Kerry an ultimatum – resolve the prisoner dispute issue within 24 hours of the PA will turn to the UN to seek international recognition.
“If we don’t get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we’ll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow,” Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouti told AFP. Barghouti’s comments came on Monday night after a high level meeting between Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
Peace negotiations have hit a complete standstill as Israel refused to release the last installment of 26 Palestinian terrorists from prison last week. Israel has refused to free the prisoners since it has almost zero confidence that the PA will continue to engage in peace negotiations past the April 29 deadline.
Rumors out of the PA camp have indicated that Abbas is waiting for the prisoners to be released in order to completely walk away from peace negotiations. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that Abbas is waiting to “blow up the negotiations” the day after the prisoners are released.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated last week that he would not agree to release the prisoners without approval from the government. “In any case, there won’t be any deal without Israel knowing clearly what it will get in exchange,” Netanyahu said.
An anonymous Palestinian official who was also present at the high level meeting told the AFP that “the Israeli government violated the agreements and must bear the consequences of its decisions.”
On Monday, U.S. mediators were presented with a framework proposal by the PA with a list of demands. The most significant demand included on the list was that Israeli must release an additional 1,000 prisoners of PA choosing.
Both Palestinian officials confirmed that there was “no link between the release of Palestinian prisoners and the extension of negotiations.” However, they said that the extension of peace talks will be significantly contingent on a “comprehensive” settlement construction freeze and the annexation of east Jerusalem.
The secretary of state left Israel on Tuesday and will most likely return to Israel in the coming days. While in Israel, Kerry met with Netanyahu and PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat.