As stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are near total collapse, the blame game has begun among top Israeli and Palestinian Officials.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel Radio Sunday morning that he was concerned the Palestinians would exploit the opportunity of failed talks to advance their efforts towards recognition by the United Nations.
“The negotiations ended because Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas] ended them already two weeks ago when he announced he would never even discuss recognition of Israel as a Jewish state,” Bennett said. “And then he applied unilaterally to the UN,” Bennett added, referencing the PA’s filing of 15 applications to international bodies earlier this month.
Peace talks came to a standstill when the PA refused to recognize Israel and extend peace negotiations past their April 29 deadline based on a US brokered framework agreement. Israel, which could not act on good faith, refused to release Palestinian terrorist prisoners without assurance that peace talks would be extended.
Israel officially cancelled the release of the prisoners last Friday. Bennett added that the collapses of talks were based on unrealistic “concepts.”
“Every time, just to continue the negotiations that aren’t leading anywhere, we have to release more murderers and more murderers. And each time they say, ‘If you don’t negotiate we’ll go to the UN.’ There’s a concept here, a concept that is pervasive here in Israel in recent years, which says, ‘We have to give up more and more, and not for peace but just so the Palestinians wont’ go to the UN.”
“I disagree with this concept,” Bennett added. “I say, if Abbas wants to go to the UN, I’ll buy him a ticket. And why? Because what he’ll find there are personal lawsuits for war crimes over his transfer of funds to Hamas which shoots rockets at us, and transfers of funds to the murderers of Israeli civilians.”
Israel’s chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, accused Housing Minister Uri Ariel of deliberately trying to “torpedo” peace talks with the Palestinians. On an interview with Channel 2, Livni said Ariel had “deliberately” reissued housing permits for 708 new homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
The subject of Israeli construction in the West Bank and areas of Judea and Samaria have been a highly contentious issue throughout peace negotiations. Livni said Ariel chose a susceptible moment “to torpedo what I am doing along with the prime minister.” She added that Ariel “must be reined in.”
Livni said that overall, blame should be placed on the PA for the failure of peace talks. However, “announcements of settlement building will always mean blame is place on us” for the failure.
“The whole world will blame us,” she said.
In response to Livni’s accusations, Ariel said in a statement, “I would suggest to Minister Livni to adhere to the advice of the sages – silence in a measure of wisdom.”
Ariel said Livni had many opportunities to make peace and had even been given “limitless authority to…release despicable murderers…Her sobs and moans over construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria are not more than crocodile tears of one who knew of (the plans) in advance, as did the Palestinians and Americans.”
At the start of this week’s cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel made some hard decisions and took uneasy steps to achieve “a genuine peace, in which our vital national interests are assured, with security first and foremost.”
However, just as Israel and the Palestinians were “about to enter into that framework for the continuation of the negotiations, Abu Mazen [Abbas} hastened to declare that he is not prepared even to discuss recognizing Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, which we have made clear to both the President of the United States and to other world leaders as well,” Netanyahu said.
The Palestinian move to gain recognition by the international community “substantially violated the understandings that were reached with American involvement,” the prime minister said.
“The Palestinians’ threats to appeal to the UN will not affect us. The Palestinians have much to lose by this unilateral move,” Netanyahu added. “They will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves. These will only push a peace agreement farther away and unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part. We are ready to continue the talks but not at any price.”
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the official spokesman for the PA, denied any blame for the direction of peace negotiations. The spokesman blamed Israel and said that ongoing settlement construction and blocking the release of terrorists was a complete provocation against the PA.
Rudeineh said that Abbas is committed to “serious negotiations” to bring about peace and create a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
A senior official in the PA, Abbas Zaki, blamed chief U.S. mediator Martin Indyk for the collapse of talks. According to Zaki, Indyk was a biased negotiator in favor of Israel because he is Jewish.
“The U.S. mediator in the negotiations, Martin Indyk, is a Zionist who protects the interests of Israel,” Zaki said in a post on his Facebook pace. “If the Israelis believe that we will sell our Palestinian problem for the release of 30 prisoners, then they are wrong.”
Zaki said the PA was now fully committed to go to the UN and gain international recognition despite warnings from both the U.S. and Israel. Zaki said that the U.S. had been brainwashed in observing the overall situation through the eyes of the Likud.