Palestine Derails Middle Eastern Peace Talks By Cozying Up To The UN
Palestinian leaders asked to sign onto 15 United Nations conventions and treaties on Tuesday night, throwing current peace talks brokered by the United States into jeopardy. The Palestinian Authority made the move in retaliation for Israel's refusal to release a set of prisoners as peace talks stalled. The talks are being brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who's probably having a pretty bad day.
Kerry was planning to travel to the West Bank today to sign an agreement extended the negotiations into next year, but canceled the trip after the Palestinians' announcement. The U.S. was planning to sign off on an exchange: They would potentially release Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. citizen who spied for Israel, if Israel agreed to slow down settlement construction in the West Bank and release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
Officials told The New York Times that they didn't think the peace talks were totally derailed...yet. According to the Times:
American officials, while rattled, said the Palestinians appeared to be using leverage against Israel rather than trying to scuttle the negotiations. Mr. Abbas, they noted, did not move toward joining the International Criminal Court, a step Israel fears most because the Palestinians could use the court to contest Israel’s presence in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority had previously agreed not to sign onto the international conventions, which include the Geneva Conventions. Signing onto them is a move intended to further the PA's international standing and, well, piss Israel off. When the Palestinians made a successful bid to join the United Nations in 2012, the U.S. opposed the move.
The whole thing's pretty awkward for Kerry, who (like every new U.S. Secretary of State) prioritizes moving the conflict forward over just about anything else. Beyond that, the development could derail the talks between the two countries.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the declarations on Palestinian TV, while throwing an apologetic bone to the U.S.
This is our right. We do not want to use this right against anybody or to confront anybody. We don’t want to collide with the U.S. administration. We want a good relationship with Washington because it helped us and exerted huge efforts. But because we did not find ways for a solution, this becomes our right.