London and Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Washington is in the process of evaluating whether to continue its role in the Middle East peace talks, a day after an eight-hour last-ditch meeting to save the negotiations ended with Palestinian and Israeli delegation members exchanging accusations.
In comments on Friday from Morocco, Kerry said there was a limit to US efforts to move the negotiations forward, particularly if the Palestinian and Israeli sides are unwilling to take the initiative themselves.
He said: “This is not an open-ended effort; it never has been. It is reality check time, and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be.”
The US Secretary of State is due to return to Washington to consult with other administration officials about Washington’s next move in the faltering negotiations.
The US-brokered Palestinian–Israeli negotiations have witnessed a series of setbacks over the past few weeks, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas categorically rejected that demand, and has also been unwilling to compromise over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In a sign that the Palestinians are prepared to step back from the negotiating table, on Tuesday Abbas signed applications to join 15 international organizations.
Palestinian sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, described Thursday’s meeting as “tense” and “complex,” adding that Palestine’s attempt to join international organizations dominated the talks.
The Israeli delegation was led by Justice Minsiter Tzipi Livni, while veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat led the Palestinian team. The meeting was also attended by chief Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj.
The Palestinian source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Faraj was particularly upset during the meeting, almost coming to blows with members of the Israeli delegation.
“The negotiations are breathing their last breath, and only a miracle will save them now,” the source continued.
In comments on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry denied that the talks had broken down. “They say they want to continue, neither party has said they have called it off, but we are not going to sit there indefinitely.”