Israel signaled Wednesday that it was “deeply disappointed” by Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent comments, which appeared to blame Israel for the latest breakdown in Middle East peace talks.
The New York Times, citing an unnamed Israeli official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, reports that Netanyahu’s office was angered by Kerry’s remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. At the hearing, Kerry suggested Israel’s announcement of 700 new housing units in a contested area of east Jerusalem helped put the talks on ice.
“Poof, that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said. “We find ourselves where we are.”
The unnamed Israeli official said Kerry’s remarks “will both hurt the negotiations and harden Palestinian positions.”
“Secretary Kerry knows that it was the Palestinians who said ‘no’ to continued direct talks with Israel in November; who said ‘no’ to his proposed framework for final status talks; who said ‘no’ to even discussing recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; who said ‘no’ to a meeting with Kerry himself; and who said ‘no’ to an extension of the talks,” the official said.
Kerry has been seeking to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but recent events have darkened the prospect that an agreement can be reached. The Palestinians applied to join 15 international conventions and treaties last week, angering Israel shortly after Israel’s housing minister published construction plans for new housing units in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians say would be part of their future state under a deal.