By Ian Swanson - 04/02/14 02:10 PM EDT
The White House said Wednesday it was “disappointed” by the actions of Israeli and Palestinian leaders that have put U.S.-brokered peace talks in deep trouble.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest in comments on Air Force One denounced recent “unhelpful, unilateral actions both parties have taken in recent days.”
But on Wednesday, the Palestinian leadership submitted applications to 15 separate international treaties within the United Nations in a bid for recognition.
That move came after Israeli leaders over the weekend refused to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli officials said they believed the Palestinians would walk away from the peace process after prisoners were freed.
The Obama administration has been pursuing new talks, and had been willing to consider the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to keep the sides talking.
That deal is in serious doubt following the moves by Israel and the Palestinian leadership.
Earnest insisted Wednesday that the administration still believed the process could pay dividends.
“There is a path for us to diplomatically find a way for there to be a safe, secure Jewish state of Israel existing alongside an independent, secure Palestinian state as well," Earnest said. "That is the ultimate goal."
At the State Department, spokesperson Marie Harf said Secretary John Kerry had spoken to the U.S. negotiating team on the ground in the region, as well as both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas.
"This is one of those points in the negotiations where each side has to make tough choices," she said. "We've been clear that they've made courageous decisions throughout this process, but we can't make the hard choices for them."
Kerry had planned to visit Abbas on Wednesday, but scrapped that meeting after the announcement that the Palestinian leader was moving forward with his bid to join the United Nations protocols.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, U.S. mediator Martin Indyk, and Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat were meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday night in a bid to salvage the talks.