White House: Israel, Palestinians taking 'unhelpful' steps

Politics,White House,Israel,PennAve,Middle East,Meghashyam Mali,Foreign Policy,Josh Earnest,Palestinians

The White House on Wednesday called recent actions by Israel and the Palestinians “unhelpful,” and warned that they threatened to undermine already fragile Middle East peace talks.

Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the administration was “disappointed” by “unhelpful, unilateral actions both parties have taken in recent days.”

His comments come as peace talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry appeared deadlocked ahead of an April 29 deadline for agreeing to a framework for further negotiations.

Israel has balked on releasing a batch of Palestinian prisoners, citing security threats. And on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally applied for the Palestinians to join a number of treaties and international organizations.

The U.S. has long insisted that Palestinian statehood should come from direct talks with Israel, and sees the move as an attempt to circumvent direct negotiations. Kerry canceled a planned meeting with Abbas after the development.

Earnest called the “tit-for-tat” actions by both sides “counterproductive.”

But he added that the administration still believes there is room for diplomacy to work.

“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,” said Earnest. “That is the ultimate goal."

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