Israel is still willing to continue with the negotiations 'but not without a price'
JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Sunday to respond to earlier "unilateral" move by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who signed applications to join several international conventions following Israel's failure to abide by an earlier prisoner release agreement.
Speaking during a cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Netanyahu warned the Palestinians that they will lose a lot over the steps they had taken. Israel, he said, will respond to the Palestinian's unilateral move "with one of our own."
Israel is still willing to continue with the negotiations "but not without a price," Netanyahu went on to say.
The Israeli premier did not specify the nature of the response in question. However, reports in Israeli media over the past few days mentioned that the Israeli government might halt the collection of some $100 million worth of border-crossing taxes and custom tariffs collected monthly by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
Reports also hinted at a possible decision by Israel to ban the Palestinian Authority from carrying out construction projects in Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank and is lying under full Israeli control.
Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks last July, with the mediation of the United States, after a three-year pause. However, the prospects for the talks appeared to crumble late last month after Israel halted the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, the fourth group scheduled for release according to a previous deal.
In response, Abbas formally applied for Palestinian membership in 15 U.N. conventions.
The Israeli premier's statements come only a few weeks before an April 29 negotiation deadline for the ongoing U.S.-sponsored talks.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that his administration would "evaluate" its role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying both sides had taken unhelpful steps, driving Washington to reconsider its position.
"This is not an open-ended effort; it never has been. It is reality-check time, and we intend to evaluate precisely what the next steps will be," Kerry told a press conference in Rabat. "It is regrettable that in the last few days both sides have taken steps that are not helpful, and that's evident to everybody."
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