The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) strongly on Tuesday criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for placing the bulk of the blame on Israel for the stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Kerry, who spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "Israel didn't release the Palestinian prisoners on the day they were supposed to be freed, and another day passed, and another day, and then another 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem, and 'poof'...that was sort of the moment."
In response, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, “After almost nine months of negotiations, during which Israel took concrete steps to advance the process, including the release of 78 prisoners – many of them terrorists – it is outrageous for Secretary Kerry to blame the Jewish state for the apparent failure of the diplomatic process undertaken at his insistence.”
Brooks continued, “The simple fact is that while Israel has supported the peace talks, the Palestinians have consistently undercut them. Most recently, Israel has pledged to continue talks past Kerry’s original deadline and the Palestinian side has refused to do the same.
“Secretary Kerry’s testimony today is a troubling consequence of the Obama administration’s assumption that increasing the pressure on Israel will bring the Palestinians back to a process they have repeatedly rejected,” he added.
Shortly after Kerry’s testimony was made public, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki tried to do some damage control, and quickly stated Kerry did not intend to point the finger at the Jewish state.
"Secretary Kerry was clear when he said that both sides took unhelpful steps, and at no point did he take part in the blame game," claimed Psaki. "More than that, Kerry clarified that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made courageous decisions throughout the process."
While Kerry did tell the Senate "it is the responsibility of the two sides to make decisions" and that "both sides took negative steps," Kerry's sharpest vitriol was saved for Israel, in a phrasing that hinted Israeli actions led to the failure of talks last week.
The final batch of terrorist releases, set for March 29, was put on hold given the total lack of progress in talks, and the widespread protest to the unpopular move.