CMEP Bulletin: Playing the Blame Game As Talks Continue
Churches for Middle East Peace’s weekly update
The Israeli-Palestinian talks that Secretary of State John Kerry worked to revive last summer are in dire straits with 18 days left until the initial deadline that the parties agreed to. While Secretary Kerry has not returned to the region, U.S. Middle East envoy Martin Indyk is still meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem to try to find a way forward.
Three days after Israel reneged on its agreement to release 27 prisoners on March 29, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the paperwork for the UN-recognized state of Palestine to join 15 international conventions and treaties. The move was largely symbolic, but it caught the U.S. and Israel off guard and no doubt strengthened Abbas politically among Palestinians.
The Netanyahu government warned there would be consequences. On Sunday the prime minister said, “Unilateral steps on [the Palestinians’] part will be met with unilateral steps on our part.” On Wednesday, he instructed government ministers to halt cooperation with their Palestinian Authority counterparts. Defense ministry officials dealing with security cooperation and of course, the negotiators are excused from the new edict.
Israel’s opposition had harsh words for the new rule. Labor party leader Isaac Herzog said, “It’s not clear what good will come from this unnecessary step of disconnecting from the Palestinian Authority… At the same time, it’s clear what damage will come of it. It will hurt our interests and those of businesses.” So far, according to The New York Times, “Israel has already frozen plans for a Palestinian cellphone company to enter Gaza and for allowing 3G service in the West Bank. In addition, Israeli officials said plans to advance Palestinian housing and agricultural projects in parts of the West Bank where Israel maintains full control had also been delayed.”