Peace Talks Falter; Kerry Rushes to Mideast

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that John Kerry would be leaving Washington on Wednesday to return to the region for more talks with both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

“This is an important time in the negotiations, and he felt it was important to return to the region,” she told reporters, according to the AFP news agency, adding Kerry would spend two days in Israel and Ramallah for talks.

Kerry is to try and polish off American parameters for a deal on all core issues, to be officially tabled next month.  The US will insist that both sides accept the American outline for peace in January.

More trouble in peace talks. No one is happy with the Americans. The Palestinians say the US is no longer an honest broker: it trying to blackmail the Palestinians by using the release of Palestinian prisoners to get Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to security arrangements in the Jordan Valley that perpetuate the occupation by leaving IDF forces there for an unspecified period.

Senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio that Kerry had plunged the process into crisis by seeking to “appease Israel through agreeing to its expansion demands in the (Jordan) Valley under the pretext of security.”

John Kerry is rushing back to Jerusalem and Ramallah to try and save the peace process as American security recommendations face rejection by the Palestinian Authority.

Kerry, was in Israel late last week and met three times with Netanyahu and twice with Abbas.  Kerry then met Monday in Washington with PA chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, reported AFP.

The security recommendations allow for a small number of Palestinians to be associated with the Israeli Jordan Valley forces under American command, and the proposed agreement amounts to an official Palestinian acceptance of a continued Israeli occupation of the Jordan Valley.

Kerry has reportedly given Israel permission to delay the next release of long term prisoners scheduled for next month.

Responding to Kerry’s threats, a spokesperson for Abbas declared Monday that the PA will not agree to the delay.

PLO secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo derided the security plan, telling the Voice of Palestine radio station that Kerry was trying to “appease Israel by fulfilling its expansionist demands in the Jordan Valley under the pretext of security.”  

He also told AFP that Kerry’s Jordan Valley proposals “will drive Kerry’s efforts to an impasse and to total failure.”  and  accused Kerry of backing Israel’s “expansionist ambitions of settlement activities in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” and said the secretary of state’s security plan was to blame for the current crisis in the peace talks.

Similarly, Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh reiterated that there would be no agreement with Israel without the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The PA’s announcement came in response to a report in Ma’ariv, according to which Kerry had threatened the Palestinians that the release of prisoners, slated for later this month, would be postponed.

“We won’t accept any delay in the release of prisoners,” Abu Rudaineh said.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Likud Beytenu faction [which has done everything it can to obstruct peace talks] at the Knesset on Monday: Israel was not on the way to a final-status agreement with the Palestinians initiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry,

This statement and the possible rejection of further prisoner releases may bring on a coalition crisis, forcing Yesh Atid to bring down the government and join the center left peace coalition.

If Kerry cannot find a solution, the Palestinians will not accept the present security plan and Israel may not release the agreed prisoners.  This will collapse the present peace talks, and is highly likely to bring on an Israeli coalition crisis.

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