Ramallah Gives Kerry Ultimatum Over Peace Talks
The Palestinian Authority on Monday gave US Secretary of State John Kerry 24 hours to get Israel to release the fourth batch of terrorists, according to AFP, after which they will resume moves to seek international recognition.
"If we don't get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we'll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow," Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghuti told AFP following a top-level leadership meeting in Ramallah which took place as Kerry arrived in Israel.
Another PA official who attended the meeting in Ramallah told AFP "the Israeli government violated the agreements and must bear the consequences of its decisions".
The two PA officials also said that the leadership had confirmed there was "no link between the release of Palestinian prisoners and the extension of negotiations".
Top officials also agreed there would be no extension of talks without a "comprehensive" freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem.
The fourth batch of terrorist releases has sparked considerable controversy, as MKs point out that the previous releases have done nothing to further talks, and that several of the released terrorists have contributed to the increase in terror attacks over the past year.
PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat stated earlier this month that Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was staying in talks solely for the sake of the terrorist releases, prompting Israeli officials to reconsider completing the deal - which has always been contingent on real progress in the talks.
Over the weekend, Israel told PA officials that the deal was postponed, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the release would "topple the government" due to public and political backlash.
On Saturday, the PA claimed that Israel had offered to release 400 terrorists from its prisons so that peace talks continue. The idea has sparked a tremendous backlash from several politicians and officials, including Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) and former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin.
In the meantime, Kerry has scrambled to save talks, making last-minute meetings with both Abbas and Netanyahu Monday night. The White House has reportedly offered to free captive Jonathan Pollard to salvage talks, in exchange for the planned terrorist release.
Abbas has repeatedly said that unless all his preconditions are met, there will be no peace with Israel.