US Secretary of State John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry

Just hours before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to ease tensions between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, a dispute broke out over the issue of settlements in a secret meeting in Jerusalem between the two sides.

Palestinian negotiators reportedly accused the Israeli side of trying to discredit the Palestinian leadership by “linking new settlement plans with the staged release of 104 prisoners.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said just days before the dispute that Israel had never promised a freeze on settlement construction during talks and that the “Palestinians knew very well that Israel would be building during the negotiations”.

While the Palestinian leadership definitely needs no help in torpedoing its own credibility, Palestinian officials have denied the allegations.

President Mahmoud Abbas warned that linking the prisoner release to settlements “could blow up the talks”.

The settlements in question consist of 1,500 new settler homes being built in Jerusalem’s eastern sector.

While the two sides are busy playing the game of “he said, she said,” the one thing that is clear is that the occupation machine is spreading its tentacles further and deeper on the ground.

Because of recent fuel shortages, Gaza’s power plant shut down on Friday – the shortages have resulted, in part, from Israel’s destruction of tunnels that bring fuel into Gaza.

Gazan officials also blamed the shut down on the Palestinian Authority (PA) charging Hamas too much for its fuel. The PA had pledged to deliver fuel to Gaza without the usual tax, but then reneged on its offer of a tax exemption.

The Gaza plant supplies about a third of the territory’s electricity needs meaning that Palestinians could now face up to 12 hours of daily blackouts – an increase from the usual eight hour blackouts.