JERUSALEM, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that if the Palestinians were to take unilateral steps, Israel would reciprocate in the same manner.
"The Palestinians have a lot to lose from these moves. Unilateral steps from their side will be answered by unilateral steps on our behalf," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
"We are interested in continuing the negotiations, but not at all costs," he said. "The Palestinians' threats to turn to the United Nations don't affect us," he added.
The Israeli prime minister tried to pin the blame over the recent deterioration of the peace talks on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"In the past months Abbas refused to discuss acknowledging Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, when we came close to making a deal over the extension of the talks, the Palestinian Authority hurried to join international treaties amid a violation of the agreements," he said.
According to a source familiar with the negotiations, representatives of Israel and the Palestinians are scheduled to meet with U.S. Middle East Envoy Martin Indyk later on Sunday to discuss options to resolve the current crisis.
The recent crisis materialized after Israel delayed and later announced it refuses to release a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners out of 104 it committed to release when the talks were resumed in July.
Israel also announced last week more construction in east Jerusalem, on lands annexed following the 1967 Mideast War. These moves were followed by Abbas approaching to join 15 international treaties and conventions last week.
Israel fears that the Palestinians would ask to join the International Criminal Court in Hague and file complaints over Israel's policy and occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem territories.
The deadline set for reaching a framework agreement between both sides is April 29.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has made incessant efforts to reinstate the peace talks and push them forward in the past year, said that Washington was evaluating whether it was worth continuing its role in mediating the peace talks amid the recent crisis.
Kerry tried to salvage the talks by a quick surprise visit to Jerusalem last week and offering Israel to release American- Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israeli release of prisoners. However, he canceled another trip amid unilateral steps from both sides he deemed were "unhelpful" to the talks.
On Saturday, Israel's chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, who blamed Abbas and the Palestinian Authority last week for breaking their commitments amid their requests to join the treaties, told the Channel 2 news that the U.S. should change its role in the Middle East peace process and push forward more direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Livni, who seemed optimistic about the continuation of the peace talks despite the crisis, said that she believes that "we need to move to more meetings and more direct negotiations." She added that "we will have to struggle to see how we fix it, how we make progress and what we must do to move forward."
Palestinian, Israeli negotiators to meet in Jerusalem
RAMALLAH, April 5 (Xinhua) -- The United States will sponsor a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem on Sunday in a bid to rescue the stalled peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday.
Chief negotiators of the two sides, Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, held a meeting on Friday in which they decided to meet on Sunday in Jerusalem, trying to extend the peace talks scheduled to end at the end of this month, the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Full story