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Kerry threatens to delay Palestinian prisoner release if PA refuses US/Israel demands

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Ramallah meeting

Kerry and Abbas meeting in better times. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Bethlehem, Nov. 6, 2013. Photo by AP

Yesterday, Maariv (Hebrew) said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressured the Palestinian Authority by threatening to delay the next scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners. The paper claimed that Kerry brought up a possible delay in response to the negative reaction of  Palestinians to the ideas he presented last week in Ramallah. Today AFP reports on that story.  (The charge against Kerry is also reported in The Times of Israel.  The claim is attributed to Yasser Abed Rabbo who uses the word, “blackmail.”)

… [A]n Israeli newspaper said that Washington was considering delaying the planned release of another 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners in a bid to pressure Ramallah into agreeing to its security proposals.

Several senior Palestinian officials reacted by stressing that the leadership would not accept any delay in the releases, which are due to take place at the end of the month.

‘We completely reject any postponement in releasing the third batch of prisoners who should be freed on December 29,’ Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP by phone from Washington.

Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina echoed his remarks in a statement to the official WAFA news agency, saying the leadership ‘would not accept the postponement of the release of prisoners. ’

Abed Rabbo too rejected any delay in implementing the third phase of releases — one of the conditions agreed on that brought the two sides back to the negotiating table for the first time in nearly three years.

The prisoner release was part of the agreement which the U.S. brokered that led to starting current talks.  If any U.S official even suggested that Israel should violate its commitment to freeing the prisoners, that would clearly demonstrate a serious ethical breach and be another indication that the Americans are acting in collusion with Netanyahu.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a high official in the PLO and a former minister in the Palestinian Authority, dismissed the latest effort by Kerry to revive the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  Kerry has presented a draft proposal to both sides which details Israeli security arrangements in a future Palestinian state.  The U.S. plan specifies a long-term Israel military presence in the Jordan Valley.  The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected this in the past.

Rabbo told AFP,

These ideas will drive Kerry’s efforts to an impasse and to total failure because he is treating our issues with a high degree of indifference.

[Kerry] only wants to win over the Israelis and [allow] settlement expansion at our expense.

An unnamed official told AFP that Kerry’s proposals were, “very bad ideas, which we cannot accept.”

There has been no official response from either the Israelis or the Palestinians to the Kerry plan, since both parties have agreed to observe strict secrecy during the talks.

The Israelis have been quiet about Kerry’s recent mission, although Netanyahu has expressed “reservations” about his suggestions.  However, there is quite a bit of political wrangling over changing the governing coalition to include  more factions that would support a peace deal.

Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, who appear to be much more sympathetic to the American- brokered agreement with the Palestinians than Netanyahu, are publicly discussing forming a new governing coalition which would keep the current Prime Minister in place.  Lapid has suggested replacing the Jewish Home party, which opposes any agreement, with the Labor party, in order to obtain sufficient support to achieve a two-state solution.

Barak Ravid writes in Ha’aretz (English, paywall?) on Friday:

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is conducting the negotiations for the government, is said to be very frustrated by the lack of progress and by the coalition’s preference for building settlements instead of confidence with the Palestinians. Livni has been meeting with Finance Minister Yair Lapid with increasing frequency over the past few weeks and with Lapid’s fellow Yesh Atid faction member, Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry. In these frequent meetings, an unofficial “diplomatic agreement” coalition has been founded between Yesh Atid and Livni’s party, Hatnuah.

Cooperation between senior officials in both parties is intended to balance out the power in the government on the diplomatic front and pressure Netanyahu to move forward. Cooperation between Perry and Livni has already borne political fruit in the form of resolution of the crisis with the European Union over the Horizon 2020 funding agreement.

While the new head of the Labor Party, Yitzhak Herzog, has put the peace process back at the center of his party’s mandate in his first week on the job, and while Yesh Atid and Hatnuah voters are slowly but surely defecting to Meretz, Livni and Lapid can’t afford to stay indifferent.

Today Netanyahu, at the meeting of his Likud party, has rejected the Lapid/Livni idea of changing the coalition.  Ha’aretz wrote that the Prime Minister noted that the sides are not even close to a treaty.  Netanyahu also stated that he will discuss his reservations about the American security ideas when Kerry returns to the region later this month. He has claimed that lack of  security guarantees is the reason for his refusal to talk about issues such as borders, settlements, etc.  Kerry could be calling his bluff, but what would satisfy Netanyahu would probably be far from acceptable to Abbas.  

The current Israeli debate appears to be between Netanyahu, who wants to maintain the status quo, and Lapid and Livni, who would prefer a Palestinian state, but on Israeli terms.  They probably believe that Kerry is the man to deliver such a state.  There has been widespread speculation that in January the Americans will present a detailed bridging proposal which will address all the core issues.  If the U.S. does that, my prediction is that the proposal will be heavily tilted toward Israeli demands and will seriously limit Palestinian sovereignty.

Update: Ma’ariv appears to have good contacts with people knowledgeable about the negotiations.  It was the first to break the story about Kerry’s support for an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley.   The paper followed up with the scoop about Kerry threatening to delay the prisoner release to pressure the Palestinians to accept his security plan.

According to Ma’ariv today (Dec. 12), Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Minister of Prison Affairs, said the Palestinian Authority does not intend to accept what he termed, “Israeli tactical games.”  He warned that any attempt to cancel or postpone the release of the prisoners means the cancellation of the negotiations.  Mohammad Shtayyeh, who recently resigned from the Palestinian negotiating team citing lack of progress, has given interviews to various media outlets.  He said that the United States is not an honest broker and that Russia should be invited to join the U.S. in mediating the dispute.  The former negotiator said that Tzipi Livni appears to want to make progress in the negotiations, but the decisions are being made by Yitzak Molcho who is Netanyahu’s representative. He is assigned, Shtayyeh claimed,  to “moderate” Livni’s enthusiasm.

Ira Glunts
About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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29 Responses

  1. Mike_Konrad
    December 9, 2013, 4:29 pm

    The current Israeli debate appears to be between Netanyahu, who wants to maintain the status quo, and Lapid and Livni, who would prefer a Palestinian state, but on Israeli terms.

    What is the difference?

    Palestine would not have the Jordan Valley, open borders, or even be allowed to let people in without Israel permission.

    I am NOT in favor of the TSS, or a one-state binational solution; but I do know that these talks are worthless.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      December 9, 2013, 4:56 pm

      “What is the difference?

      Palestine would not have the Jordan Valley, open borders, or even be allowed to let people in without Israel permission.”

      Which is why, if these talks fail, the world must impose massive, unrelenting sanctions on the zionist entity until it stops being so damned evil.

      • Ecru
        December 10, 2013, 12:04 am

        And get away from the petro-dollar which is all that’s keeping the USA (world’s largest and most important sponsor of state-terrorism and fascist regimes that murder their own people) afloat.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 11, 2013, 9:48 am

        True enough.

  2. geofgray
    December 9, 2013, 4:33 pm

    You write, “my prediction is that the proposal will be heavily tilted toward Israeli demands and will seriously limit Palestinian sovereignty.”
    Aren’t you going way out on a limb here?

    • Ira Glunts
      Ira Glunts
      December 9, 2013, 4:40 pm

      Yeah geofray, you caught me there. ;-). I actually was thinking that when I wrote it.

      • Citizen
        December 10, 2013, 9:53 am

        @ geofgray & @Ira Glunts:

        I fail to see why that prediction is going way out on a limb. Just look at the history of the peace process.

      • Ira Glunts
        Ira Glunts
        December 10, 2013, 10:17 am


        I do not think I am going out on a limb with this prediction. And I do not think I would be going out on a limb if I said geofray does not think that this prediction is going out on a limb. :-)

        I can see that my reply to geofgray could be misleading but I assume he was being ironic.

      • Citizen
        December 10, 2013, 12:01 pm

        @ Ira Glunts
        OK. I wasn’t so sure. Chalk it up to my dotage.

  3. HarryLaw
    December 9, 2013, 5:03 pm

    The idea supposedly put forward by Kerry, threatening to delay the release of the next batch of 25 prisoners, is an indictment by Kerry [not without justification] of the apolitical nature of the Palestinian leadership, and the notion that Kerry could believe that that trifling penalty would be enough to let Israel continue it’s occupation of the Jordan valley, speaks volumes about the US relationship with the Palestinians and the amount of any real sovereignty the PA could achieve, of course it was to be expected that any negotiations outside the UN and International law will be on Israel/US terms, that is why they are so futile.

  4. just
    December 9, 2013, 5:46 pm

    Who knew that Kerry/Washington is in charge of Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails?


    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      December 9, 2013, 5:52 pm

      Kerry was just being the dutiful messenger boy.

      • just
        December 9, 2013, 6:05 pm


        I guess it does not really matter…All the prisoner “releases” are just another opportunity for the IOF to capture and jail again, anyway…… sport fishing/shooting fish in a barrel– it’s the IOF at its best.

  5. Les
    December 9, 2013, 6:56 pm

    Meanwhile other countries are doing such as this,

    “UK government issues warning over doing business with Israeli settlements”
    For the first time, UK government issues guidelines on the risks of trading with Israeli settlements

    • just
      December 9, 2013, 7:53 pm


      thanks Les.

    • W.Jones
      December 9, 2013, 9:38 pm

      “Cooperation between Perry and Livni has already borne political fruit in the form of resolution of the crisis with the European Union over the Horizon 2020 funding agreement”?

      That didn’t have anything to do with a crisis over Israeli policies, did it?

    • Les
      December 10, 2013, 4:20 pm

      Add this from today’s news.

      Dutch water giant cuts ties with Israeli counterpart due to settlements
      Vitens reneges on deal with Mekorot because ‘these projects cannot be seen separately from the political context.’
      By Amira Hass, Barak Ravid | Dec 10, 2013 | 07:53 PM

  6. DICKERSON3870
    December 10, 2013, 12:19 am

    RE: “Kerry has presented a draft proposal to both sides which details Israeli security arrangements in a future Palestinian state. The U.S. plan specifies a long-term Israel military presence in the Jordan Valley.” ~ Ira Glunts

    MY COMMENT: It’s not really about Israel’s “security concerns”. That is just a pretext for yet another land grab*.

    “Land Theft in the Jordan Valley”, by Uri Avnery, i>, 12/06/13

    [EXCERPTS] So here comes John Kerry again, for the umpteenth time (but who is counting?) to make peace between us and the Palestinians.
    It is a highly laudable effort. Unfortunately, it is based on a false premise. To wit: that the Israeli government wants peace based on the two-state solution.
    . . . Unwilling – or unable – to recognize this simple truth, Kerry looks for a way around. . .
    . . . So here he comes with a new idea: to start by solving Israel’s security problems and doing away with its worries.
    Let’s not talk for now about the other “core problems”, he says. Let’s look at your concerns and see how to meet them. I have brought with me an honest-to-goodness combat general with an honest-to-goodness security plan. Have a look at it!
    This approach is based on the false premise – the offspring of the overall premise – that the “security concerns” cited by our government are genuine. Kerry is expressing the basic American belief that if reasonable people sit around a table and analyze a problem, they will find a solution. . .
    . . . The following account is simplified, but not far removed from what actually happened.
    Immediately after the June 1967 war, when all the Palestinian lands had fallen into Israel’s hands, groups of agricultural experts swarmed over the West Bank to see what could be exploited.
    Most of the West Bank consists of stony hills
    , very picturesque but hardly suited to modern agricultural methods. Every inch of arable land was used by the Palestinian villages, using terraces and other ancient methods. No good for new kibbutzim. Except the Jordan valley.
    This valley, part of the huge Syrian-African rift, is flat. Lodged between the river and the central Palestinian mountain ridge, it also has ample water. For the trained eye of a kibbutznik, it was ideal for agricultural machinery. It was also sparsely populated.
    Almost all important Israeli leaders at the time had an agricultural background. . . The Minister of Labor, Yigal Allon, was not only a renowned general of the 1948 war but also a leader of the largest kibbutz movement. . .
    . . . It was Allon who provided the military pretext for keeping possession of the Jordan valley.
    He devised a security plan for the post-1967 Israel. Its central plank was the annexation of the valley.
    Known as the “Allon Plan”, it had – and still has – a strong hold on Israeli political thinking.
    It was never officially adopted by the Israeli government. Nor does there exist an authorized map of the plan. But it has been endlessly discussed. . .

    SOURCE –

    • Citizen
      December 10, 2013, 10:01 am

      The Jordan Valley has been a good agricultural area for ten thousand years.

  7. Walid
    December 10, 2013, 1:34 am

    This prisoner-release gimmick is part of the foreplay; it’s providing Abbas with a tool that will have Palestinians clamoring for the release of the 25 prisoners, to which Abbas will be forced to comply with Israel’s demand of maintaining its presence in the Jordan Valley for another 20 years. Of course, since Palestinians don’t believe in lawyers, the agreement would be worded to make Israel’s stay in the valley perpetually renewable. Now Abed-Rabbo that was part of the original Oslo negotiating team is flexing his muscles about Israel having to abide by the release and Sha’ath that was also part of the original magnificent Oslo negotiating team has quit in protest over Israel’s intransigence and this too is part of the charade. One has to feel sad for the Palestinian people for the Jordan Valley they are about to lose for good. But they will rejoice at the release of the 25 prisoners and everybody will be happy.

    • Citizen
      December 10, 2013, 10:05 am

      What do you mean the Palestinians don’t believe in lawyers? I assumed their negotiating team was, is equipped with good Palestinian lawyers. Isn’t the question said lawyers’ lack of power even if they point out the weasel wording in all offers from the US or Israel?

      • Walid
        December 10, 2013, 5:15 pm

        Citizen, I’ve seen it in a couple of places about no lawyer being present for the crucial Oslo negotiations, one of them by the late Edward Said in an interview by Robert Fisk:

        “… At that first meeting in Beirut in the late Seventies, I had asked him about Arafat. “I went to a meeting he held in Beirut the other day,” he said. “And Arafat stood there and was questioned about a future Palestinian state, and all he could say was that ‘You must ask every Palestinian child this question.’ Everyone clapped. But what did he mean? What on earth was he talking about? It was rhetoric. But it meant nothing.”

        After Arafat went along with the Oslo accords, Said was the first – rightly – to attack him. Arafat had never seen a Jewish settlement in the occupied territories, he said. There wasn’t a single Palestinian lawyer present during the Oslo negotiations. Said was immediately condemned – all of us who said that Oslo would be a catastrophic failure were – as “anti-peace” and, by vicious extension, “pro-terrorist”.

        The same incompetents that negotiated the Oslo are back (Minus Arafat, of course) negotiating the crucial Jordan Valley that’s being put up for a swap against the release of 25 senior prisoners. You can guess the depressing outcome.

  8. peeesss
    December 10, 2013, 1:49 am

    As usual the collaborationist regime of Abbas and Erakat feign outrage at yet another proposal, demand. that Obama/Kerry insists upon. Erakat, who has supposedly resigned half a dozen times , these past few years, is once again denouncing this new demand. Just as Abbas/Erakat has dozens of times said no negotiations if settlements continue. This traitorous duo have watched and sat on their hands as Israel has continued this land grab, ethnic cleansing policy of Netanyahu and all the preceding Prime ministers of Israel. Jerusalem, the promised Capital of the Palestinian “State” to be is being cleansed of its Palestinian Christian and Muslim inhabitants. Its homes taken over, when not being demolished, by religious fanatics , many from Brooklyn NY. Where is Abbas/Erakat as this continued destruction of Palestine goes on ?. Does he ever go to Jerusalem as a Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King would do and defend his people. No, he has his US/Israeli trained and armed security force putting down, imprisoning, torturing, killing any one dissenting from his amoral prostrating at the hands of the US and Israel. This is an unelected pawn of the US/Israel cabal yet I continue to read some commentators give credence to this supposed “President” of Palestine. As one commentator stated , even when they release some prisoners, the next week they incarcerate them again while dragging dozens more , including women and children , to their dungeons. Many commentators keep assuming that Abbas will turn to the ICJ . After Palestine’s new status at the UN this was supposed to be the next step leading to justice to the Palestinian people and sanctions to Israel . Of course he avoids that because the US/Israeli rulers will not approve such a venture. Abbas/Erakat will be out on his heels if ever he goes against US dictates. Abbas /Erakat will never deviate from the US not withstanding various statements , comments, speeches he makes for the his forsaken people. They both are quislings, pawns, traitors, who enjoy the , so called trappings of power, bestowed upon him by the US/Israel .
    So after this quisling regime has seen Palestine being chopped into little pieces, Jerusalem cleansed of its longtime inhabitants, , Palestine dismembered , thousands of homes demolished, over a million olive tree destroyed, IDF and settlers running wild, Abbas/Erakat are now going to make a stand over 26 people. I don’t think so.

    • Justpassingby
      December 10, 2013, 6:44 am

      One of the best summary here ever.

      • Citizen
        December 10, 2013, 10:10 am

        Yep. It’s a good one. I’d like to catch Obama and Kerry in a stalled elevator and bring the subject of Israel’s on-going settlements up.

    • JeffB
      December 10, 2013, 10:11 am

      @Process —

      Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were dealing with societies dependent on the labor or the populations they represented. Mostly in the early days of the 2nd intifada, but also before that the Israelis restructured their economy so that they were no longer in dependent on Palestinian labor. Literally every Palestinian could disappear off the face of the planet tomorrow and Israel would at worst experience a moderate recession and might experience a boom to lower costs. King and Mandela weren’t confronting that sort of structure.

      The PA no longer has the option of civil disobedience because the Israelis don’t depend on their cooperation. For the PA to have the options that King and Mandela had the first thing is the Israelis have to trust and like the Palestinians more than they do now so that they utilize them economically. What the Palestinians call “normalization” or “being colonized”. By successfully resting that the Palestinians don’t have the same options.

      The Palestinians tried violence in the 2nd intifada. The Israelis having a much better army, responded with far more force and the Palestinians lost. Hamas tries it once in a while with little to show for it.

      Abbas and Erkat aren’t holding good cards. You may not like that fact, but those are the facts.

      • peeesss
        December 11, 2013, 4:17 am

        Jpb and citizen: thank you..
        not “holding good cards” does not negate the fact of their obvious subservience to their US/Israeli masters, being the security force for Israel, massive corruption of their Fatah faction, and adhering to the pretense of honest negotiation, with Jewish Zionists, Indyk and Mackovsky , “neutral; unbiased honest brokers” . If it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable. As Abbas and Erakat travel to Paris, Washington, Riyadh, and hobnobs with their leaders, all enemies of Palestinian independence and freedom, his people see their land being taken dunam by dunam, their homes demolished, farms , trees burned, children beaten and imprisoned, and murdered. They do hold three important, if I may so, most important cards. International Law, World opinion and Justice. Go to the COURTS.

    • Walid
      December 10, 2013, 5:26 pm

      ” … Abbas/Erakat are now going to make a stand over 26 people. I don’t think so.”

      The prisoners are the least of their worries since the deal is appearing to have been already made and now they are going through the theatrics of threatening each other with walking out of the negotiations or reneging on the release to drop the stink bomb gently on the Palestinian people about the Jordan Valley..

  9. Citizen
    December 14, 2013, 7:01 am

    the Jordan Valley stink bomb… aptly described. Kerry has proposed to Israel that stink bomb be limited to a ten year stink, but Israel rejects Kerry’s attempt to go middle ground, and suggests Kerry extend the time line for the peace negotiations. Wonder what Kerry will do now?

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