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!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • 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.