Israel wants peace talks but 'not at any price'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, has struggled to put peace talks back on track.

Story highlights

  • Palestinian official says Israel shouldn't object because they are following the law
  • Israeli PM blames Palestinians for obstructing negotiations
  • Israel last week reneged on a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners
  • Palestinians responded by signing on to join 15 international bodies

Israel is willing to continue U.S-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians but "not at any price," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Attempts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to put peace talks back on track unraveled in the past week -- Israel reneged on a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners, and the Palestinians responded by signing on to join 15 international bodies, reversing their commitment not to seek international recognition as a state.

Speaking at a weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu blamed Palestinians for obstructing negotiations.

"The Palestinians substantially violated the understandings that were reached with American involvement," he said.

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Netanyahu said Israel would respond with steps of its own if the Palestinians pressed ahead with unilateral actions toward statehood. He did not elaborate.

"They will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves," he said.

"These will only push a peace agreement farther away, and unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part. We are ready to continue the talks but not at any price."

A senior foreign policy adviser for Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said his party was not surprised by Netanyahu's remarks about statehood.

"If Netanyahu considers the Palestinians committing themselves to international law -- including committing themselves to empowering woman and protection of children -- is a provocation that calls for Israeli punishment, then what the Palestinians are saying all of these years have been proven beyond doubt that Israel considers international law to be hindrance for peace," Hussam Zomlot said.

Last July, Kerry announced a bid to reach a peace deal within nine months. But as time rolled by with little progress, Kerry sought to get Netanyahu and Abbas to agree to a framework which would form the basis for a comprehensive peace treaty.

With the deadline set to expire on April 29, Kerry and his aides have struggled to get the parties to extend the talks.