US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke before the Senate on Tuesday, where he blamed Israel for the breakdown of peace talks last week.
"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," remarked Kerry before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The fourth and final batch of terrorist releases, meant as a "gesture" for the talks, was set for March 29 but put on hold given the total lack of progress in talks, and the widespread protest to the unpopular move. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly told Kerry the release could topple his government.
The release was officially cancelled last Thursday, after Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Abbas requested to join 15 UN agencies last Tuesday, in breach of the peace talk conditions.
Kerry simply noted before the senate that Abbas's move was "clearly unhelpful." He added "it is the responsibility of the two sides to make decisions," noting that "both sides took negative steps."
Regarding Kerry's comment about the "700 settlement units," Israel reissued a call for tenders on over 700 housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo last Tuesday. A construction freeze on Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria was not a precondition of the talks.
No Jewish state for now
Kerry further blamed Israel for demanding recognition as the Jewish state. Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas brought talks to a standstill by adamantly refusing to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
"The government of the United States and the president supports the notion of Israel being defined as a Jewish state," Kerry noted. "We believe that that should happen. But when it happens, and how it happens, has to be part of the negotiations. It's not going to happen in the beginning."
Noting the intensive energy that he has put into pushing the talks forward since last July, Kerry noted "there's a limit to the amount of time that (US) President (Barack) Obama and I can invest in this topic with consideration to other challenges around the world, especially if the sides aren't willing to show seriousness."
Nevertheless, Kerry stressed the importance of the peace talks, saying "if we won't deal with this now, it won't be easier in the future to achieve a peace agreement. This issue has an influence on our lives here in the US."
However, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) spoke up, declaring the peace talks were "finished." As Kerry insisted both sides wanted the process to continue, McCain cut in, saying "it is stopped, recognize reality."
Kerry would have none of it, saying "my hope is the parties will find a way back. We're working with them to try to do so." Kerry added the talks have brought "a narrowing of differences," without specifying what narrowing he was referring to.
Iran two months from a nuclear weapon
Kerry also addressed the negotiations with Iran, given the renewed discussions that began Tuesday in Vienna between the Islamic regime and world powers over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran will be able to develop a nuclear weapon within two months, acknowledged Kerry, commenting that he was "agnostic" regarding the outcome of the Vienna talks.
According to Kerry, the US is ready to level sanctions again Iran, not only over its nuclear program, but also for its support of terror and abysmal human rights record.