Jerusalem • Israel on Thursday abruptly called off a release of Palestinian prisoners, sending U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's troubled Mideast peace efforts further into a tailspin.
The Israeli announcement, made in reaction to a renewed Palestinian push for membership in United Nations agencies, deepened the crisis in U.S.-led peace talks and made Kerry's goal of extending negotiations past a late-April dateline a more distant possibility.
Israel's chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, said the Palestinians' decision to seek accession to 15 international conventions through the U.N. violated the terms of the promised prisoner release, which would have been the fourth since talks resumed last summer. The Palestinians submitted their applications after Israel failed to carry out the release, as promised, by the end of March. Israel carried out the first three prisoner releases, but balked at the final one without assurances that the Palestinians would extend negotiations.