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Netanyahu orders cutback in contacts with Palestinian Authority

By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel announced on Wednesday a partial freeze in high-level contacts with the Palestinians in retaliation for their signing of international conventions, deepening a crisis that threatens to wreck U.S.-brokered peace talks. A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, said Israeli-Palestinian ministerial meetings were rare but voiced concern that the step could be followed by economic sanctions.

Netanyahu orders cutback in contacts with Palestinian Authority

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a halt to high-level contacts with the Palestinians on non-security related issues, but exempted his chief peace negotiator from the ban, government officials said on Wednesday. One Israeli official called Netanyahu's order a response to "the Palestinians' grave violation of their commitments in the framework of the peace talks" -- an apparent reference to their signing of 15 international conventions last week.

Kerry suggests Israeli housing announcement triggered impasse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Tuesday that Israel's announcement of plans to build about 700 housing units in East Jerusalem was the proximate cause for the near collapse of its peace talks with the Palestinians. However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry was not seeking to blame Israel for the impasse in the talks, which appear close to breaking down ahead of the April 29 date by which Kerry had hoped to reach a peace agreement.

Kerry: Israeli settlements led to peace talks stalemate

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday blamed approval of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem for derailing peace talks with Palestinians, a charge that pricked Israeli officials and sent aides into damage control. The Israeli government announced a major expansion of settlement construction in the West Bank last month, just as Washington was scrambling for a way to get the two sides to extend US-sponsored peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline.

Netanyahu orders crackdown on pro-settler vandals

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on pro-settler activists accused of assaulting Israeli troops at a Jewish enclave in the occupied West Bank. Following news reports that settlers had thrown stones at reservist troops, slashed their tents, spilled kerosene and overturned equipment at a Jewish enclave near Nablus, Netanyahu demanded that defense chiefs "act with all due force" to enforce the law.

8 wounded as Israeli forces clash with settlers

Clashes between Jewish settlers and Israeli police wounded eight people in the West Bank overnight prompting the defence minister to warn on Tuesday that such violence would not be tolerated. "Police came to help soldiers to demolish five illegal constructions near Yitzhar," a settlement in the northern West Bank, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP. "After they'd finished, several dozen settlers began throwing stones, injuring six border policemen," she said.

Tit-for-tat gestures would replace Middle East talks

By Crispian Balmer JERUSALEM (Reuters) - If Middle East peace talks collapse this month, lawfare rather than warfare looks likely to fill the void, with the Palestinians set to confront Israel on the diplomatic stage rather than in any popular uprising. The Israelis will seek to retaliate in such a way as to avoid an international fire storm, analysts and diplomats say, still leaving open the vague possibility of a negotiated end to their seemingly perennial conflict at a later stage in history.

Israel rejects Gazan's plea to run in W. Bank marathon

Israel's Supreme Court has refused to allow a Palestinian Olympian from the Gaza Strip to take part in a marathon in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli NGO said Tuesday. Court documents made available by Gisha, an Israeli watchdog that works to facilitate Palestinian freedom of movement, said that Nader al-Masri's request for permission to transit the Jewish state to join the April 11 Bethlehem marathon did not constitute "a humanitarian case...concerning urgent medical treatment." "The petition is denied," the transcript of Monday's judgement concluded.

Obama to meet Kerry as Middle East initiative falters

President Barack Obama meets Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday as they evaluate the fate of US-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which are close to collapse. Kerry will also Tuesday likely face questioning about his strategy in the Middle East at a hearing in Congress, which will also reveal deepening concern about what the United States regards as Russian interference in eastern Ukraine.

Israelis, Palestinians try to salvage peace talks

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet again on Monday in a new effort to salvage the teetering US-brokered peace talks, US and Palestinian officials said. The meeting came as US Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to rescue negotiations he kick-started in July, and a week after a fresh impasse saw both sides renege on commitments they made nine months ago.
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