JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there will be no more conciliatory gestures to the Palestinian Authority to extend peace negotiations.
"The Palestinians are the ones stalling the talks by setting conditions," Lieberman told Israel Radio Thursday morning. "Israel will not agree to any further conditions for the continuation of talks."
So far Israel has completed the first three stages of the prisoner release. The fourth stage is set for the end of March. Israel agreed to release the convicts, most serving time for terror-related offenses, as a goodwill gesture to P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, whose popularity with his own Fatah faction is waning.
The P.A. has a long history of demanding concessions to participate in direct talks with Israel, but repeated goodwill gestures have yielded next to nothing.
Several years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to halt building in Jewish communities in biblical Judea and Samaria for 10 months -- an area where Palestinians want a future, Jew-free state -- as a gesture to the Palestinians. It did little for Israeli-Palestinian talks, and Netanyahu has said he won't do it again.
On Wednesday evening, Lieberman released a Foreign Ministry statement on the crisis in Ukraine as he prepared to depart for meetings in Rome Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, among others, on the status of talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Kerry redirected his efforts when it became obvious an agreement would not be reached within the nine-month timeframe, which expires on April 29. He is trying to convince both sides to sign a framework agreement for extending the talks.
Obama reportedly presented the agreement to Netanyahu during their meeting earlier this week at the White House and will present it to Abbas at his upcoming visit.