JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel is “deeply disappointed” that Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to lay primary blame on Israel for the crisis in the U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks, an unnamed Israeli official said.
Kerry’s remarks Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “will both hurt the negotiations and harden Palestinian positions,” the official told The New York Times. The official was identified as being from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The remarks are an unusually strong pushback by Israel, as the nearly 9-month old peace talks appear to be collapsing.
Kerry blamed both sides for the breakdown of the talks, but he said the event that brought about the stalemate was the announcement of more than 700 tenders for apartments in the Gilo neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem.
“Poof, that was sort of the moment. We find ourselves where we are,” Kerry told the Senate committee.
The unnamed Israeli official told the Times that the Palestinians “violated their fundamental commitments” by applying to 15 international bodies for membership. He added that Israel had not agreed to halt construction as part of the agreement to restart the talks last summer.
“Both the American negotiating team and the Palestinians know full well that Israel made no such commitment, ” the official said.
The Palestinians said Israel’s failure to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, as per an agreement to relaunch the talks, led do the breakdown in negotiations and to the applications to the international bodies.
“Israel wants to see the negotiations continue and will persist in its efforts to resolve the current crisis,” the official told the Times, but reiterated a Netanyahu assertion earlier in the week that unilateral actions by the Palestinians will be met in kind by Israel.