The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has said Israel may take "unilateral action" against the Palestinians after the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, signed 15 international conventions that could pave the way for a renewed attempt to gain United Nations statehood.
Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu said: “Unilateral actions from the Palestinians will be answered with unilateral actions from our side”. He blamed the Palestinians for the current impasse over the US-sponsored peace talks.
He said Israel was not afraid of UN intervention and that the Palestinians had “a lot to lose” if they were to pursue their attempt to gain UN statehood, which was shelved in 2013 as a concession to the Israelis, who released 104 Palestinian prisoners in return.
His comments come before a crucial Knesset debate tomorrow, called by 25 members of the Israeli parliament, to discuss the progress - or lack of it - of the peace initiative sponsored by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the government's failure to secure the release of the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
There is no clear indication yet of what form Israeli unilateral action could take, but the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that it could include the withholding of taxes collected by Israel from the Palestinian Authority. Israel last did so in 2012, sparking unrest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli sources said yesterday that a meeting would be held today between the US envoy Martin Indyk, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and the Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni to try to breath new life into the faltering peace process.
"We will have to struggle to see how we fix it, how we make progress and what we must do to move forward. It is not simple. It is very complicated. It is a real crisis," Ms Livni said.
The news came just hours after Mr Kerry - who has made several trips to the region to meet both Abbas and Netanyahu - hinted that the talks were close to collapse and said the Obama administration would reassess its participation in them.
“It is regrettable that in the last few days both sides have taken steps that are not helpful and that’s evident to everybody,” he told reporters in Morocco.
On Thursday, Israel scrapped the scheduled release of a group of Palestinian prisoners, which was a condition of Palestinian participation in the talks.