Israeli and Palestinian envoys on Tuesday took advantage of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East to publicly blame each other for the latest breakdown in the fragile peace negotiations as the deadline for a deal expired.
Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the 15-nation Security Council that Israeli and Palestinian leaders should "convince each other anew they are partners for peace."
Both Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor and Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour expressed a commitment to peace. But they also accused each other of undermining the most recent attempt to secure a deal in U.S.-brokered talks.
"Israel has maintained its rejectionist stance and persisted with its grave breaches, constantly reaffirming its role as occupier and oppressor, not as peacemaker," Mansour told the council. "Once again, Israel has thwarted peace efforts."
Israel's envoy pinned responsibility for the suspension of peace negotiations on the Palestinians.
"The Palestinians pledge dialogue while fermenting hatred," Prosor told the council. "They promise tolerance while celebrating terrorists. And they make commitments almost as quickly as they break them."
Prosor accused the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of abandoning a chance to "tango with Israel" in favor of "waltzing off with Hamas."
Nine months ago the United States launched new negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to end the decades-long conflict and help create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The talks fell apart last week, with Washington blaming both sides for failing to compromise ahead of the April 29 deadline.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council Washington will continue to support negotiations between the two sides.
"We have clearly reached a difficult moment, but we continue to believe that there is only one real viable solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: two states living side by side in peace and security," she said. "If the parties are willing to go down the path - this path - we will be there to support them."
Israel suspended the negotiations with the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas's unexpected unity pact with the rival Islamist Hamas group, which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority is angered by Israel's expansion of settlements on land they intend to include in a future Palestinian state and its decision to postpone the release of the last tranche of prisoners in Israeli jails.
"The convergence of Israel's bad faith in the negotiations, including its reneging on the prisoner release agreement, and its unlawful actions on the ground, particularly its intensification of settlement activities and incessant aggressions in Occupied East Jerusalem, seriously undermined the peace process," said Mansour.
Prosor made clear that Israel would not budge in its refusal to talk with Hamas.
"Anyone who wonders why Israel won't negotiate with Hamas may as well be wondering why nobody shows up to dinner parties thrown by Hannibal Lector," Prosor said, referring to a serial killer made popular in a series of Hollywood films.
U.N. envoy Serry said both sides must compromise.
"If Israel is serious about the two-state solution, it must recognize the negative impact of continued illegal settlement activity," he said. "Palestinians in turn should be reflective of their actions in international fora."
Earlier this month Abbas signed more than a dozen international conventions, citing anger at Israel's delay of a prisoner release in a decision that jeopardized U.S. efforts to salvage fragile peace talks.
The Palestinians were eligible to sign on to the treaties and conventions after the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians' status at the United Nations in 2012 from "observer entity" to "non-member state," a move widely seen as de facto recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
Editing by Louis Charbonneau and Andrew Hay