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US reviews Mideast peace push as tit-for-tat moves multiply
Published Friday 04/04/2014 (updated) 06/04/2014 19:01
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US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press
conference in Rabat on April 4, 2014 (POOL/AFP Jacquelyn Martin)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Washington said Friday it was reviewing its push for a Middle East peace agreement as a spiral of tit-for-tat moves by Israel and the PLO took hard-won talks close to collapse.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has invested more than a year of intensive shuttle diplomacy, said there were "limits" to the time Washington could devote to the process.

"This is not open-ended," Kerry said in Morocco, adding that it was "reality check" time and he would evaluate with President Barack Obama Washington's next move.

"There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps."

Kerry spoke to both Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday in a desperate bid to bring the two sides back from the brink.

But President Mahmoud Abbas rejected his appeals to withdraw the applications he signed on Tuesday to adhere to 15 international treaties, a Palestinian official told AFP.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored appeals to refrain from "unhelpful" tit-for-tat moves and asked officials to draw up a range of tough reprisals, Israeli media reported.

Kerry said Washington currently had an "enormous amount on the plate," highlighting negotiations with the Russians over Ukraine, talks with Iran on its nuclear program and the Syrian conflict, as other US priorities.

"Both parties say they want to continue, neither party has said they want to call it off; but we're not going to sit there indefinitely, this is not an open-ended effort."

A State Department spokeswoman attempted to take the sting out of Kerry's remarks, insisting there was still a peace process to which the US remained "committed."

"We're still negotiating," Marie Harf said.

"Until we get to the end of this process, we should all be cautious about making predictions about what will come next," she added.

Israel says Tuesday's move by Abbas is a clear breach promises made by the PLO when peace talks were relaunched in July to pursue no other avenues for recognition of its promised state.

Palestinians say Israel had already reneged on its own commitments by failing to release a fourth and final batch of prisoners on the weekend, and that the treaty move was their response.

'Threats scare no one'

Kerry spoke to both Netanyahu and Abbas from North Africa to appeal to them to reconsider.

But Abbas dismissed his warnings about the consequences of pressing ahead with the treaty applications, a Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Kerry warned that "Israel was threatening a strong response to Palestinian actions," the official said.

But Abbas retorted: "Israel's threats scare no one. They can do what they like," the official added.

Both sides insisted they remain ready to talk, and US envoy Martin Indyk met Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat in Jericho on Friday.

But as the steps and counter steps multiplied, the talks looked close to collapse, even before their scheduled end on April 29.

Netanyahu was looking into a range of tough options to punish the Palestinians, Haaretz newspaper reported, including withholding tax revenues levied by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel briefly imposed the same crippling measure in December 2012 to punish the PLO's successful drive for observer state status at the United Nations, despite strong opposition from Israel and the US.

The interior ministry gave the green light for a controversial visitor center in an Arab neighborhood of annexed East Jerusalem.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief peace negotiator, told the PLO there had been a chance of a belated release of the final batch of prisoners.

But she said this had been scuppered by the treaty move, a source close to the talks told AFP.

Some 1,500 Palestinians demonstrated Friday outside Ofer military prison near Ramallah, rallied by the families of those who were to have been freed on March 29.

Eight protesters were wounded by gunfire from Israeli troops, medics said, two in serious condition.

An army spokeswoman said "200 Palestinians" had "hurled rocks and burning tires at security forces" and soldiers responded with "riot dispersal methods and small caliber rounds."
1 ) Sander / The Netherlands
04/04/2014 22:27
4th batch of political prisoners would be released on March 29 by Israel . Is not happened, conform agreement... therefore Palestinians have the right to submit an application at the UN. So what 's the problem?

2 ) Kerry is being HAMMERED by / the AMERICAN PRESS
05/04/2014 03:17
even Obama is now removing himself from Kerry, calling it KERRY APPROACH to the Middle ease-- as if the BUCK DOES NOT STOP AT THE WHITE HOUSE Phoney Americans!

3 ) Colin Wright / USA
05/04/2014 06:35
"There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend..." Not to mention money. BIG savings to be had here -- moral as well as financial -- if we just pull the plug on the Kosher Reich. Oh yeah. It'll increase our moral stature throughout the world, free us from a strategic liability, and make possible renewed good relations with a fifth of humanity. Of course, Abe Foxman will say mean things about us. There's that to consider.

4 ) Kerry sees his NOBEL / SLIPPING AWAY
05/04/2014 08:47
"There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps."

5 ) Julie / USA
05/04/2014 09:55
"...Israel had already reneged..." -- it's ALL in these 4 words. enough said.

6 ) Lynx / Palestine
05/04/2014 11:43
End US influence over the political process. Time to head to Moscow and Beijing...the US so-called "mediators" have been exposed over and over as totally biased to Israel and its occupation apologists... Time to turn the page and end the nightmare chapter known as the Oslo Accords and Negotiations which have given Israel cover to double its settlements since 1991.

7 ) It is / Only money
05/04/2014 14:30
Lynn #6 - can you please remind us how much money Moscow and Beijing gave to palestinians last year? During last 10 years? Ever? Zero or close to zero? So, good luck for palestinians to go to Moscow and Beijing . We will see for how long non- member non- state Palestine would survive without US and EU money.

8 ) Mel / USA
06/04/2014 15:22
"...not open-ended"? You're darn right it isn't! CLOSE-MINDED Israel still seeks to STEAL all Palestine& put a CLOSED Iron Wall(armored border)swallowing up all West Bank/JordanValley,E/J,Gaza land,'hafrada'ing all non-Jews!That's ILLEGAL,RACIST&BIGOTTED!You,kerry,must stop the BS that you're"negotiating"equitable REAL peace &admit you're passive about Zionism's Nazi-like ethnic cleansing of non-Jews & Afrikaans apartheid!END THE OCCUPATION OF ALL PALESTINE.It's illegal &UNSUSTAINABLE!
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