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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2014

Israel negotiator Livni says talks with Palestinians in 'crisis'


JERUSALEM — Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians said she sees difficulty moving ahead with peace talks as the two sides — joined by a U.S. team — prepare for discussions Sunday on whether to revive the effort.

“The past week wasn’t a good week and we will have to fight to see how we can correct and move forward,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said today on Israel’s Channel 2 television. “ It isn’t simple. It’s very complicated. This is a real crisis.”

Livni called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s bid earlier this week to join international bodies “a violation and a big mistake that will make it very difficult to go back to normal.”

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina, in a statement posted by the Palestinian news agency Wafa, said that the Palestinians remain committed to talks and blame Israel for the impasse.

Livni’s comments came after an official familiar with the situation said on April 4 that a U.S. team would join Israeli and Palestinian negotiators tomorrow to discuss whether there was a will and a way to get the talks back on track.

The meeting’s outcome is likely to influence the Obama administration’s review of whether Secretary of State John Kerry continues his peacemaking efforts. The official discussing the session asked not to be named because the meeting is private.

“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 said on Friday. “So it’s reality check time.”

Israel on Thursday canceled the already postponed release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, saying it was a response to renewed efforts by Palestinians to gain recognition at the United Nations. Palestinian leaders said their move had been triggered by Israel’s failure to keep its promise over the prisoners.

“It was clear that we couldn’t make the fourth release of prisoners that would include Arab Israelis without a different package,” Livni said today, without elaborating.

Abu Rudeina said Palestinians weren’t willing to “pay a price” for the release.

Other issues dividing the sides include demands by Palestinians for a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and by Israel for recognition as a Jewish state.

Abbas this week announced his application to join 15 international treaties and conventions, in an effort to protest the stalemate in talks without incurring a cutoff in American aid.

The U.S. has opposed the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, saying the issue is best addressed in talks with Israel, and Abbas agreed to put the matter on hold for the nine months that the Kerry-led negotiations were due to last.

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