Kerry and Netanyahu Meet, No Progress Made
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ended with no progress on Monday evening, Army Radio reported.
Kerry, who is on a sudden visit to the region in attempt to save the failing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), was also scheduled to meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday night, but that meeting has been postponed to Tuesday morning due to the late hour.
Kerry was reportedly considering the visit while in Paris on Sunday, and later Sunday night called Netanyahu in what apparently was an effort to coordinate the last-minute visit.
The latest impasse in the peace talks between Israel and the PA came after the fourth and final batch of terrorist releases was refused by Israel on Saturday. Netanyahu reportedly told Kerry that if the release went through it risked toppling his government, given the widespread protest of the unpopular "gesture" to promote the peace talks.
The fourth batch of terrorist releases has sparked considerable controversy, as MKs pointed 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.
In addition, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat stated earlier this month that 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.
Meanwhile on Monday night, even before the meeting between Kerry and Abbas, the PA gave Kerry 24 hours to get Israel to release the fourth batch of terrorists.
"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.