Israel cancels prisoner release following Palestinian UN bid

BY Sam Lane  April 3, 2014 at 2:11 PM EST
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sits next to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, left,  at the White House in Sept., 2010. Photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sits next to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, left, at the White House in Sept., 2010. Photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s chief peace negotiator said Thursday officials will not release a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners after the Palestinians’ continued push for United Nations recognition.

A spokeswoman for Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni said the Israeli government was finalizing an agreement to free the prisoners when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed applications to 15 international conventions, the Associated Press reported.

Livni later said “new conditions were established and Israel cannot release the fourth batch of prisoners,” according to the AP.

On Wednesday, lawmakers at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing questioned United States Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers about the situation.

“President Abbas announced that the Palestinians intend to be a party to 15 international conventions,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas. “This is very concerning and could jeopardize the peace process and possibly U.S. assistance…The administration must send a clear message to the Palestinians that the only path to statehood is through a negotiated agreement with Israel, not through unilateral attempts at the U.N.”

Power agreed, saying the U.S. has opposed every Palestinian attempt at a move in the U.N.

“There are no shortcuts to statehood, and we’ve made that clear,” she said. “Efforts that attempt to circumvent the peace process, the hard slog of the peace process, are only going to be counterproductive to the peace process itself and to the ultimate objective of securing statehood, the objective that the Palestinian Authority, of course, has.”