Photo: Reuters
Discussing future American involvement in Mideast peace talks, Obama and Kerry.
Photo: Reuters

Is the US taking a step back from peace talks?

Some in Jerusalem believe the Americans are 'taking three steps back' from talks, while others say State Department's clarification of Kerry's comments shows Washington hasn't given up yet.

Did the United States decide to withdraw from the peace process, or is this an American trick meant to put more pressure on the two sides?


In Jerusalem, the views on the matter are split. However, no one was surprised of US Secretary of State John Kerry's words, which placed the onus to the crisis in peace talks on Israel - and then tempered his statement with a clarification from his media adviser.


"It doesn't matter what, Israel will be blamed - and so, no one was surprised," an Israeli official said Tuesday night. "At the moment it seems like the Americans are taking three steps back and decreasing the extent of their involvement in the (peace) process."


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On Tuesday, Kerry told a hearing at the Senate that the crisis in peace talks started after Israel postponed the release of Palestinian prisoners and announced tenders for 700 new housing units in Jerusalem.


US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee    (רויטרס)

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee


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But, on the other hand, another Israeli source familiar with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians tried to temper the secretary of state's comments. He placed the emphasis on the clarification issued by State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki.


"The Americans haven't thrown the towel. The clarification was meant to make that clear. They're not backing away, and there's still American involvement. They haven't given up yet," that source said.


In a Twitter message, Psaki wrote that Kerry "was crystal clear today that both sides have taken unhelpful steps and at no point has he engaged in a blame game. He even singled out by name Prime Minister Netanyahu for having made courageous decisions throughout process."


Israel was waiting for the results of Kerry's meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden last night, a meeting that was to determine the future level of American involvement in the peace process.


Despite Kerry's pessimistic tone, and in spite of his criticism of Israel and the Palestinians, Jerusalem is hoping the Americans decide to remain in the picture, and continue their involvement.


Ahead of the Obama-Biden-Kerry meeting, Israel and the Palestinians were trying to resolve their disagreements and formulate a plan that would allow returning to normal negotiations, but sources familiar with the talks said that negotiations revolved mostly around the issue of the prisoners, that Israel is refusing to release at present.


The Palestinians are blaming Israel for not honoring its commitment to free the prisoners, while Israel is blaming the Palestinians for bluntly violating their own commitment not to turn to the UN and its various agencies. Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, even threatened that the Palestinian Authority would seek to join other international organizations, in retaliation of steps taken by Israel.


"A big part of the talks touched on the Israeli demand to banish ten of the prisoners to the Gaza Strip, instead of the West Bank. There was an argument for hours over this. This is a futile process," a source familiar with the talks said. "It's going nowhere."


Another Israeli source said that the Americans, who were mediating the talks, have yet to declare the end of the process and have yet to give up. "The analysis that says Kerry has taken a few steps back is not correct," he said.


פרסום ראשון: 04.09.14, 10:10
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