On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare statement on the ongoing talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Mr Netanyahu said during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry that he was “concerned about the progress, because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises, continuing to avoid, run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace”.
This was the first official statement from a senior Israeli leader on the condition of the talks which started four months ago. Until now, it has been mainly Palestinian sources who have complained about lack of progress.
Nearly halfway to the original deadline for a draft diplomatic agreement between the two sides, tension is running high in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Both sides are accusing each other of obstructionism and leaking details that were supposed to remain behind closed doors. In a rare tweet on the issue on Tuesday, Israel’s chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, wrote: “Curiosity builds, but quiet has an important role to play in negotiations.”
Meanwhile, the leaks have continued with reports that the latest meeting between the sides on Tuesday included heated exchanges over the latest announcement by the Israeli government that fresh West Bank settlements would be built.
Although Israel has not publicly committed to freezing settlement building, earlier in the week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that the linkage created in Israel between each of the four stages of the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners and further settlement building could derail the talks.
In a signal of the Palestinian impatience with the lack of progress, it was announced last Friday that the head of the PA’s negotiating team, Saeb Erekat, had tendered his resignation along with his colleague, Mohammad Shtayyeh, to President Abbas, who refused to accept them.
While this is far from being the first time Dr Erekat has announced his resignation only to be convinced to remain, it reflects also the growing public pressure the Palestinian leadership are coming under to leave the talks.