"If [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] does not agree to extend negotiations with Israel for an additional year, it's possible that the fourth round of prisoner releases will not be carried out," Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) told Israel Hayom, in a special interview to be published in full on Friday.
"If a crisis in the talks emerges and the Americans and Israelis reach the conclusion at the end of nine months that an extension is unanticipated, it will mean the talks have failed," he said. "Then, it is certainly possible that there won't be any more prisoner releases."
If a situation such as that occurs, in which the Palestinians refuse an extension leading the Israelis to cancel further prisoner releases, a scenario both sides wish to avoid, then neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians would necessarily be required to follow through with other commitments to each other, Peri explained. For example, the Palestinians could unilaterally turn to U.N. institutions for recognition.
Peri, known to be perhaps the most dovish minister in the cabinet, laid blame on Abbas for stymieing progress in the peace talks.
"We have a really difficult partner," he said. "There isn't an obstacle the Palestinians haven't raised in the negotiations. Whenever it looks like you're just about to wrap things up, it turns out that's just the beginning for them. We have a partner who has a really hard time making compromises."
Next week, U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Abbas in Washington. Israel expects the U.S. and Europe will pressure Abbas into agreeing to an extension of the peace talks.
Meanwhile. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians "very significant."
"The level of mistrust is as large as any level of mistrust I've ever seen, on both sides," he told lawmakers in Congress. "Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here."