US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Israeli counterpart Foreign Minister Avigodor Lieberman Wednesday.
The meeting between the two took place on the backdrop of the political fallout of what has been called the 'poof speech,' in which Kerry placed the onus of the crisis in peace talks on Israel.
Speaking in a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Kerry was asked about stalemate in US-brokered peace talks, and said: "The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day – and then 700 units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof…"
The comments caused a furor, and on Wednesday a senior source within Prime Minister Netanyahu's office spoke with the New York Times and said Kerry's comments “will both hurt the negotiations and harden Palestinian positions.”
The anonymous attempted to shift the onus onto the Palestinians: “Secretary Kerry,” the official was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “knows that it was the Palestinians who said ‘no’ to continued direct talks with Israel in November; who said ‘no’ to his proposed framework for final status talks; who said ‘no’ to even discussing recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; who said ‘no’ to a meeting with Kerry himself; and who said ‘no’ to an extension of the talks."
The negotiation teams for Israel and the Palestinian will meet Thursday in Jerusalem after the Arab League authorized the Palestinians to continue peace talks. The meeting will be held under the mediation of Special US Envoy Martin Indyk,
Under the terms of renewed talks, Israel had promised to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners in four groups, while the Palestinians said they would suspend a campaign to sign up the "state of Palestine" for various UN agencies.
But as the talks stalled last month, Israel failed to release the fourth group of prisoners on time, and the Palestinians then signed letters of accession for 15 international conventions.
The Arab League called on the US Wednesday to keep up efforts to salvage Middle East peace talks that are on the brink of collapse, blaming Israel for a crisis that has led Washington to evaluate its role in the negotiations.
At a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, the Arab League said Israel was responsible for the "serious predicament" facing the negotiations, citing its failure to release about two dozen Palestinian prisoners as one of the major causes.
"(The ministers) called on America to continue its efforts for the resumption of the negotiation track that obliges Israel to implement its commitments ... according to the agreed time frame," a League statement said.
The US-brokered negotiations plunged into crisis last week after Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking after the end of the month, failed to carry out the promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.