Israel officially canceled the fourth round of prisoner release that would have set free 26 Palestinian terrorists as part of an earlier agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The last straw, according to Israel, was an earlier push by the Palestinians to join international organizations affiliated with the United Nations.
Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said that since the Palestinians set out on a path towards international recognition while Israel was finalizing the release of the prisoners. Israel could not agree to release the terrorists in good faith since the Palestinians clearly showed that they are not willing to cooperate with Israel.
“New conditions have been created and Israel cannot free the prisoners of the fourth batch,” announced Livni.
On Thursday, Israel informed PA officials that it would begin to impose sanctions against the PA for requesting to join 15 international bodies. Israel Radio reported that sanctions include the suspension of high-level contacts between ministers and CEO’s, and any contact with the PA will not be centralized and led by the Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea and Samaria, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
Israel also decided that it was freezing a program that would have implemented 3G cellular technology into PA controlled areas and would be stopping the transfer into Gaza of communication equipment owned by PA technology company Watania.
On Wednesday night, in an emergency marathon meeting, Israeli and PA negotiators met to discuss a final peace framework. During the meeting, PA chief negotiator told the Israelis, “We are here to negotiate in the name of the UN-recognized State of Palestine, not in the name of a Palestinian Authority whose inputs and outputs are controlled by Israel.”
Livni appealed to the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and said that peace could not be brought about via unilateral measures.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney said that Israel’s cancellation of the release of terrorists “creates challenges” but “the dialogue remains open.”
Carney said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his negotiating team are not deterred by recent setbacks.
“There has been progress in narrowing some of the questions that have arisen as a result of the events of the last few days,” Carney said. “Neither side has indicted that they want to walk away from the talks. They both indicated they want to find a way to move forward.”
Late Thursday, newly revealed details of the U.S. mediated Wednesday meeting emerged. Before the meeting took place, Erekat presented a revised list of demands for extending peace talks that included official Israeli agreement to establishing a Palestinian state along 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of an additional 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including high profile terrorists; a total construction freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians; removing Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas which are already under full Israeli control; and power to bar the IDF from the West Bank Area A (under full PA control) to kill or arrest terrorists.