The Middle East peace talks aren’t officially dead, but a surprise move Tuesday has worsened its prognosis.
Secretary of State John Kerry canceled his Wednesday trip to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after the Palestinian leader renewed his bid for statehood on Tuesday by signing paperwork to join 15 international agencies.
U.S. and Israeli officials have stressed that Palestinians shouldn’t use the agencies, and bypass the U.S. facilitated talks, to gain statehood.
Abbas said at a signing ceremony Tuesday that he doesn’t want to “collide” with the United States, but that the decision was in response to Israel not releasing a fourth round of prisoners as scheduled.
Kerry’s announcement to reporters in Brussels that the meeting had been called off marks a quick turnaround from reports earlier Tuesday that a deal to extend negotiations was likely to be announced this week.
A senior State Department official told The Washington Post that the deal Kerry had planned to announce would have included Palestinians agreeing to not press for official statehood through the United Nations. The deal would have also called for Israel to release prisoners and curb housing construction.
The Obama administration was also reportedly considering releasing Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy currently serving a life sentence, as part of the peace talks.
Abbas’s decision is the latest bump in the perpetually turbulent talks to resolve the long-standing issue. The two sides have until the end of April to reach a framework for moving forward, and Kerry stressed that the process isn’t over.
“All I can tell you is that we are continuing, even now as I am standing up here speaking, to be engaged with both parties to find the best way forward,” he said.
What We're Following See More »
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.
Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”
"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."