WH: Israel, Palestinians face reality check

 

Israel and the Palestinian leadership should decide whether they really want to work toward a peace deal, the White House said on Friday.

“We have reached a place where it’s time for a reality check. It’s time for the Israeli leaders and leaders of the Palestinian people to spend some time considering their options at this point,” White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said.

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The White House comments follow similar rhetoric from Secretary of State John Kerry, who has seen his efforts to spearhead peace talks falter this week.

Israeli leaders voted against the release of a fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners and announced the construction of additional settlements in East Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, signed documents in an attempt to join a number of institutions within the United Nations in a bid for recognition of a Palestinian state.

Kerry canceled his return to the Middle East on Wednesday as a result of the developments.

These unilateral actions “are not helpful at all in trying to move these conversations along,” said Earnest, echoing past administration comments.

Asked if the administration was still open to releasing convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as a way to restart talks, Earnest said President Obama has not made a decision.

Kerry has aimed to strike a final status negotiation by the end of April, but meeting that deadline appears unlikely.

Earnest said Obama and Kerry will have a conversation about the status of the peace talks “in the near future.”