No Progress in Talks, But Plenty of Recriminations

As negotiators meet again in increasingly futile-looking attempts to revive dying talks, both sides seem firmly fixed on the day after.

Contact Editor
Ari Soffer and AFP,

Abbas signs requests to join 15 international
Abbas signs requests to join 15 international
Flash 90

Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators were to meet again on Monday in a fresh effort to salvage the teetering US-brokered peace talks, US and PA officials said.  

The meeting came as US Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to rescue negotiations he kick-started in July, and less than a week after PA leader Mahmoud Abbas scuppered talks by breaking the terms of negotiations and pursuing unilateral membership in 15 UN-linked agencies.

But the top US diplomat warned there are "limits" to the time and energy Washington could inject into a process which appears to have made no progress amid bitter recriminations and moves Washington has described as "unhelpful".

"Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met last night to discuss ways to overcome the crisis in the talks," a US official said on Monday. "The meeting was serious and constructive, and both sides requested that the United States convene another meeting today to continue the effort."   

Accompanied by US envoy Martin Indyk, the two sides met on Sunday evening, but PA sources told AFP that the session ended without any breakthrough and an Israeli official was quoted by local media as saying the process was on the edge of collapse.

The Knesset was also meeting in special session on Monday during its spring recess, for a debate on the peace negotiations, called by opposition MPs critical of the government's handling of the talks.  

"This is a government of failure, it is a government that does not give hope but only depression," Labor party and opposition leader Isaac Herzog told the almost empty house.

'No communication between them'

But he allocated blame both to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, referring to him by the name "Abu Mazen", by which he is familiarly known among Palestinians.

"There is not even minimal dialogue between Abu Mazen and Netanyahu. There is no communication between them," he said. "They have been blaming one another since the day the negotiations started and they don't meet and don't talk."

Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to retaliate if the PA proceeds with applications they lodged with the UN last week to sign up to 15 international treaties.

"Any unilateral moves they take will be answered by unilateral moves at our end," the premier said.

Palestinian political analyst Samir Awad, of Birzeit University in Samaria (Shomron), said that it was an empty threat.  

"In my opinion Israel can do nothing," he told AFP. "Israel has no convincing argument."  

But Israeli Economics Minister Naftali Bennett called on the government to turn the tables on the PA, by lodging war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, should Abbas follow through on his attempt to join it.

Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor gave weight to that proposal on Sunday, noting that the PA was in fact already violating of most of the international legal conventions it seeks to join.

And least one prominent civil rights organization has threatened to launch "a tsunami" of criminal charges against the Palestinian Authority in the event it joins the ICC.

"Luckily, we knew what was coming, and over the past year we have been collecting testimony from terror victims in Israel, to serve as a basis for charges in the ICC," said Shurat Hadin Chairperson, Attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner. "It was clear to us that besides launching a third intifada of violent terror, the Palestinians' only real option was turning to the ICC against Israel."

Kerry warned Friday there were "limits" to the time and energy Washington could devote to the talks, amid reports that the Obama administration is set to cool-off its involvement.