As the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian careened towards collapse Wednesday, U.S. officials accused Housing Minister Uri Ariel of deliberately sabotaging the talks by suddenly announcing a tender to build 700 more homes in East Jerusalem.
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A top U.S. official suspects the tender is an old one Ariel presented at this time precisely in order to torpedo the talks once and for all.
Ariel belongs to the right-wing party Habayit Hayehudi, led by Israeli-American politician Naftali Bennett.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday the Palestinian Authority officially applied for the state of Palestine to become a signatory to 15 international conventions and indicated that's just the start. The Palestinians said their unilateral move is a response to Israel's refusal to release a fourth round of prisoners. It therefore considers itself relieved of its commitment not to seek recognition from international institutions, the Palestinian Authority said.
The PA also said that if Israel releases the fourth group of prisoners, it won't pursue its application to join United Nations institutions.
The 26 Palestinian security prisoners had been scheduled for release last Friday.
Israel for its part blamed the Palestinian Authority's refusal to first commit to extending the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to rescue the talks, including by dangling a possible release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from prison, Ariel called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel the Oslo Accords in reaction to the unilateral Palestinian submission to the United Nations.
In a Facebook post, Ariel said that the Palestinians are guilty of "breaking of all the rules and commitments."
He added: "We need to respond in kind – and act for the annulment of the Oslo Accords, which led to only terror and killings. The Palestinians have proven once again that there is no reason to give them false gestures and release terrorists and murderers for a process with a predictable ending."