John Kerry Suggests Israel Sparked Mideast Peace Talks Crisis

Points to Refusal To Release Prisoners and Settlement Plans

getty images

By Reuters

Published April 08, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Tuesday that Israel’s refusal to free Palestinian prisoners and its announcement of plans to build about 700 housing units in East Jerusalem was the proximate cause for the near collapse of its peace talks with the Palestinians.

However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry was not seeking to blame Israel for the impasse in the talks, which appear close to breaking down ahead of the April 29 date by which Kerry had hoped to reach a peace agreement.

Any hint that the United States was blaming Israel was likely to upset Israeli officials. Both sides are sensitive to suggestions that they are at fault for the talks unraveling and they typically try to shift responsibility to the other side.

Testifying before Congress, Kerry said both sides had taken “unhelpful” steps in recent days and that he hoped they would find a way to resume serious negotiations, noting that they held a lengthy meeting on Monday.

Among the steps were Israel’s failure to release a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners as promised, its announcement of tenders to build 708 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a Palestinian state, and the Palestinians signing 15 international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war, last week.

“Both sides, whether advertently or inadvertently wound up in positions where things happened that were unhelpful,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Unfortunately, the (Palestinian) prisoners weren’t released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released, and - and so day (one) went by, day two went by, day three went by, and then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem, and poof, that was sort of the moment,” he said.

“My hope is the parties will find a way back. We’re working with them to try to do so, but they have to … make that fundamental decision, and I hope they will,” he said.

“The … bitter irony is that at this particular moment, this fight is over process, it’s not over the substance of the final status agreement, it’s over how do you get to the discussion of the final status agreement,” Kerry said.

The main issues in the conflict are borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

Kerry last week scrapped plans to visit Jerusalem for talks with the parties and said he was returning home for a “reality check” on what might be possible, saying it could not be an open-ended process. He made the point more baldly on Tuesday.

“There are limits to the time the president and I … can commit to this, given the rest of the agenda, if they’re not prepared to commit to actually be there in a serious way,” he said. “So, we’ll see what happens in the next days.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.