PLO: Israel never gave negotiations a 'chance to succeed'
Published Tuesday 29/04/2014 (updated) 30/04/2014 15:00
A Palestinian protester throws a rocks towards Israeli police close
to the Israeli Ofer military prison in West Bank town of Betunia on
April 4, 2014.(AFP/File Abbas Momani)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Washington's deadline for reaching a peace deal expired Tuesday, with the PLO stating that Israel actively sabotaged efforts to achieve a two-state solution.
"Unfortunately, Israel never gave the negotiations a chance to succeed," PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement marking the April 29 deadline for peace talks.
"To build settlements in occupied land, kill Palestinians and demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes is certainly not the behavior of a government that wants to end occupation but of a government that wants to turn occupation into annexation."
Rather than use the nine-month deadline to achieve a two-state solution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used "every possible tool in order to consolidate its Apartheid regime," Erekat said.
After more than a year of intensive shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry who had initially hoped for a deal by April 29, Washington was reluctant to admit failure, acknowledging only a "pause" in the dialogue.
Figures published on Tuesday by settlement watchdog Peace Now showed that in parallel with the negotiations, the Israeli government approved plans for nearly 14,000 new settler homes, describing it as an "unprecedented number."
"The Government of Israel, a ruling coalition representing the most extremist sectors of Israeli society, including the settler movement, never prioritized peace as a strategic objective," Erekat added.
"We believe that the international community must now do what is needed, in order to make clear to Israel that choosing settlements and Apartheid over peace has a political, legal and economic cost."
Kerry has found himself at the center of a political storm after reportedly saying that if Israel didn't seize the opportunity to make peace soon, it risked becoming an "apartheid state" with second-class citizens.
In his apology, Kerry insisted that he had never called Israel "an apartheid state" but he did not deny using the term, suggesting only that he used a poor choice of words.
Although the talks made little visible progress, they hit a major stumbling block in late March when Israel refused to honor a commitment to free two dozen veteran Palestinian prisoners, prompting Abbas to resume recognition moves by signing 15 international treaties.
Furious, Israel immediately unveiled economic sanctions by freezing tax monies it collects on behalf of Ramallah and suspending a joint natural gas drilling project off the Gaza coast.
A political source quoted by the Walla news website said the freezing of tax monies was "just a first step" and that more was to follow after Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip announced a surprise unity deal aimed at ending years of rivalry.
AFP contributed to this report