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US Expert Comments on Suspension of Effort to Get Israeli Settlement Freeze


The Obama administration has ended its effort to persuade Israel to renew its moratorium on West Bank Settlement activity in order to restart peace talks with the Palestinians. U.S. officials say the broader effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict will continue.

Asked by VOA’s Susan Yackee for his reaction to the decision, Randolph Macon College professor Michael Fischbach expressed the view that it was a rather remarkable public admission of failure on the part of the Obama administration.

Michael Fischbach

Michael Fischbach

Fischbach also believes that the decision was significant against the backdrop of the quite considerable incentives the U.S. was offering to the Israelis – incentives that the Netanyahu government apparently did not consider worth pursuing. As Palestinians are unlikely to compromise on the settlement issue, Fischbach believes that it will be a tall order for the U.S. to produce incentives that would bring them back to the negotiating table. This, says he, will be further complicated by the question how much pressure the U.S. is really able to exert on the Netanyahu government, given the domestic Israeli political scene.

Asked about a possible way forward, Fischbach says that the sides might have to be confronted with the very basic question about whether peace is really what they want. It’s not so clear, he says.

“Certainly, from the Israeli perspective, there are elements to a final peace that the Palestinians have said we have to have that, frankly, many Israelis are not willing to pay. And if you can stabilize the security situation to a certain extent, some may think it’s preferable to have a situation where there is no peace, but at least there is security.”

Fischbach says that the same can be said about Palestinians who might not want to compromise on some of the issues at the heart of the conflict, such as the right of refugees to return to territories they were forced to abandon.

According to Fischbach, the future of the Middle East peace process hinges on one question with which both, Israelis and Palestinians, would have to be confronted.

“Are you, two sides, serious enough about peace that you are willing to compromise on very important issues or are either one of you, or both of you, willing to continue the status quo because that is preferable?”

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