US Secretary of State John Kerry met this week with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to prevent the negotiating process from falling apart in the coming days, amid the uncertainty over the release of convicted Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel.
While Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are busy blaming each other for the failure of the talks, the tireless Kerry is searching for a creative solution to the issue, specifically with regard to the possible release of Israeli-Arab prisoners.
The situation would be almost funny if it wasn’t so sad. As the two leaders trade barbs and accuse each other of torpedoing the talks, Kerry and the international community are frantically trying to get the pair to stop their fighting.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry, one of the “responsible adults” running between the two sides, sounded very concerned over the prisoner controversy.
“March 29 [the original date set for the prisoner release] is of immediate concern, much more urgent than April 29, when negotiations are supposed to come to an end,” Serry told The Times of Israel this week.
“If a solution to this issue is not found in the coming days, it is doubtful that it will be possible to complete the nine months of talks. I hope that, in the end, Kerry will offer a framework consistent with the relevant UN resolutions and the Road Map. In my view, it is important for both sides to continue negotiations on that basis. If the political process succeeds, we need to think how much we can gain. The alternative to two states seems particularly bad.”
Serry recently returned from a visit to the Crimean Peninsula as part of an initiative by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He had a rough time there, as armed men without uniforms — most probably Russian soldiers — arrested him for several hours after he refused to leave the region. Following that experience, returning to Jerusalem and Ramallah suddenly seems somewhat pleasant. Still, Serry was plainly concerned.
“This is the moment of truth, not a time for games or attempts to score points in the last minute. I sincerely hope that both sides can accept the framework agreement. If the situation in the West Bank and Gaza does not improve, there will be consequences.”
What does that mean? An outbreak of violence?
“The ‘business as usual’ atmosphere cannot continue. The Palestinians might turn to the UN, and an Israeli response will follow. I cannot imagine a positive outcome in such a scenario.”