Palestinians down on U.S. role in peace talks


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian officials said they were “disappointed” by  the U.S. role in brokering their peace talks with Israel.

On Sunday, the officials criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for enabling the Israeli policy of announcing new settlement housing construction when releasing Palestinian prisoners. The criticism came just two days before Kerry was scheduled to visit Palestinian leaders in Bethlehem.

“We are disappointed by the American role, ” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close adviser to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, told Palestinian TV.

Rabbo said the Palestinians are concerned that Kerry will pressure them to remain at the peace negotiating table and not demand anything in return from Israel.

On Monday, Abbas said in a speech in Ramallah, “There hasn’t been any advancement in the talks with the Israelis until now despite all the meetings between the sides.”

Israel announced last week that it was building thousands of new housing units in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem hours after releasing 26 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails — part of a planned four-phased release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners jailed for at least 19 years.

On Sunday, Israel’s Ministry of Housing and Construction and the Israel Land Authority said they will publish tenders for land zoned for the construction of 1,730 housing units in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, both in settlements Israel expects to keep under any peace deal with the Palestinians and in far-flung settlements.


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