Israel won’t stop settlement building. Face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are at an end. The U.S. decides to drop efforts to achieve a construction freeze. Israel hails the U.S. decision saying everyone can return to talks on the true issues which are necessary to reach peace in the region.
Direct talks over settlements fail. Now we have indirect talks over "core issues". Where is all this heading? America was unable to get Israel to freeze settlement building for three months, a Palestinian pre-condition to direct talks in exchange for important diplomatic and security promises. While the U.S. may look weak, there is more of a question about what Netanyahu can deliver. He appears politically feeble, unable to move his own coalition and seems unwilling to risk his government even though these talks are clearly in the long-term interest of his country. Are the hardliners in Israel winning out over common sense?
While everyone seems to be in agreement of a two-state solution, the state of Israel and a Palestinian state, many of the other issues like security, borders, settlements, water, refugees and of course the fact that both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital remain huge stumbling blocks to either side being willing to compromise on anything. While moderates in both camps may be willing to swap for a solution, the right wing elements of both sides are intransigent in their fixation of following their own respective agendas regardless of what the other side may need or want. Of course, Israel is more in the driver’s seat. It has the power; it has the support of the U.S. and economically and militarily it far outclasses the Palestinians. It would seem to be that the first move is more in the Israeli court.
Would the recognition of Palestinian state pressure Israel to do something to break this perpetual deadlock? The European Union this past Monday supposedly reaffirmed its readiness to recognise such a state at an "appropriate" time but unfortunately stopped short of outright recognition despite growing pressure to break the current impasse. Newspapers are reporting a frustration on the part of various states with Israel’s refusal to a freeze of settlements calling the continuation of the building both illegal and an impediment to peace.
U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is back to lead indirect talks. He is asking both sides to lay out their positions to him then he will do what he can to broker an accord between the two sides. Unfortunately, this unto itself will seem unlikely to lead to any tangible results since there are no longer any consequences of sticking with the status quo. Israel can continue to build unencumbered by any promises to its American ally. However it is said the Palestinians are looking at another outside option; that is, seeking an international endorsement of the 1967 lines for the borders of their future state. If the Palestinians cannot depend on the U.S. to somehow control its Middle East ally, they will go to the United Nations and seek the support of the international community in the hopes of developing a consensus which would in turn force the Israelis to accept a course of action that so far, the ring wing segment of their population has steadfastly refused to consider.
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