NRG/Maariv reported on Sunday night that United States Secretary of State John Kerry, determined to make progress in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), is threatening to delay the next scheduled release of terrorists being held in Israeli prisons.
Before the current round of peace talks began, Israel agreed to release 104 terrorists from its prisons as a “gesture” to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. 52 terrorists have already been released and the rest are to be released in two more phases.
However, PA officials who spoke to NRG/Maariv on Sunday said that the PA negotiating team has received an unexpected message from Kerry, according to which the next release - scheduled for the end of December - will be postponed by one month.
According to these officials, Kerry is using the terrorist release as a means of pressuring Abbas, after the PA Chairman rejected all of Kerry’s offers regarding security in the Jordan Valley.
The officials added that Kerry is determined make progress in the peace talks by January, and as such is planning to postpone the third phase of the release of the prisoners, as a way of “persuading” the PA to accept his proposed security arrangements.
On Friday, before he left Israel for Washington, Kerry told reporters that Israel and the PA were “closer than they’ve been in years” to achieving a peace agreement.
Israel has always insisted that in any final agreement it would have to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, and has rejected outright the idea of any third party involvement. The PA rejects any long-term Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley.
One report last week suggested that the Americans had agreed with Israel regarding its demand for IDF presence in the Jordan Valley even after a permanent agreement.
Speaking at the Saban Forum on Saturday, President Barack Obama said that there must not be another Gaza in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria, referring to the thousands of rockets that have rained down on southern Israel since the Jewish state withdrew from Gush Katif in 2005.
Obama warned that in the event of a final agreement between Israel and the PA, there would be a "transition period" to ensure that Judea and Samaria does not become a security threat akin to Hamas-ruled Gaza. He said that the PA would have to accept such a transition period.
"This transition period requires some restraint on the part of the Palestinians as well. They don't get everything they want on day one," declared Obama. "The Israeli people can't expect a replica of Gaza in the West Bank. That is unacceptable."