News / Middle East

Mideast Talks Set to Resume Amid Pessimism

Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel (C) speaks to journalists during a ceremony to mark the resumption of the construction of housing units in an east Jerusalem neighborhood, August 11, 2013.
Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel (C) speaks to journalists during a ceremony to mark the resumption of the construction of housing units in an east Jerusalem neighborhood, August 11, 2013.
Al Pessin
Senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are expected to sit down Wednesday in Jerusalem for U.S.-backed talks aimed at ending nearly 20 years of stagnation in their peace process. But events in the days leading up to the talks have deepened some highly emotional aspects of the conflict, and fueled pessimism about the the latest effort to end it.

It was 19 years and 11 months ago that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the first Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, with U.S. President Bill Clinton looking on.

"Now both pledge to put old sorrows and antagonisms behind them, and to work for a shared future, shaped by the values of the Torah, the Quran and the Bible. Therefore, let us resolve that this new mutual recognition will be a continuing process, in which the parties transform the very way they see and understand each other,” he said.

But it did not work out that way.

The accords, largely negotiated in secret in Oslo, opened channels of communication, gave some autonomy to the Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory and established a plan for further negotiations on a comprehensive and permanent peace. And there was some progress in the early years.

But the process stalled when the two sides could not agree on the difficult issues they had set aside in the initial accords - chief among them the status of Jerusalem, the rights of Palestinian refugees, the Israel-Palestinian border and security arrangements, and the fate of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Efforts over the years to restart the process have not gotten very far, and analyst Jordan Perry of the British risk assessment firm Maplecroft, does not expect this attempt to be any different.

“I think the chances are fairly limited," he said. "I do not think really, on either side, there is a real impetus to actually change tack or change approach.”

The issues are logistically and politically difficult, and highly emotional on both sides. That has been demonstrated again in the run-up to these talks.

Israel approved the construction of 2,000 new homes in some of the settlements, angering the Palestinians and causing one official to predict the talks could break down even before they start. But the Palestinians had dropped their long-held demand for a settlement construction moratorium as pre-condition for talks.

In return, Israel agreed to release 100 Palestinian prisoners. And the first group of 26 caused much angst in Israel. The former Commissioner of the Israeli Prisoner Service, Orit Adato, says these are hardened criminals who personally committed murder, including one who beat an old man to death with a pipe, and another who killed a Holocaust survivor with an ax.

But in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Adato also noted that they have all served more than 20 years, and while she calls the release a “high price” for just starting talks, she thinks it is worth paying.

“I, as a former commissioner, would say, 'Let us release them. It is OK.' I am not saying it with all my heart," said Adato. "I am saying it with my brain, with my hope that it will change a little bit the atmosphere among the Palestinians. I hope they will assess the value that we are paying now, and it will open the minds to go really forward.”

But the settlement construction has overshadowed the prisoner release, leaving the talks' prospects for success as dubious as ever. Indeed, Jordan Perry said the chances are further reduced because both parties do not want another partial agreement. They want a final deal on all issues, or no agreement at all.

“I still think it is fairly limited, actually, that it will be this case of agreeing on a few issues and then putting others aside," said Perry. "There are some real, key issues that really, the changes of being resolved are highly limited.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led the effort to restart the negotiations. He rejects such skepticism, saying there is one key motivation that will make these talks different.

“The leaders, the negotiators, and citizens invested in this effort can make peace for one simple reason: because they must," said Kerry. "A viable two-state solution is the only way this conflict can end, and there is not much time to achieve it, and there is no other alternative.”

So the talks begin with high-level official determination, but also with historically impossible issues on the table and fresh anger over recent events in the air. It's a huge challenge for the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and their American mediators.

And Kerry has given them just nine months to meet it.

Related interview:

VOA’s Susan Yackee speaks with Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, about the tangled web of Mideast peace.


You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JohnWV from: USA
August 13, 2013 7:20 AM
Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and will never accept a nonapartheid democracy with a Jewish minority. Continuing illegal annexations, settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing have also precluded any negotiated two state solution. AIPAC and other treasonous American Israel Firsters have seized control of our government, finances and military-industrial complex. The Jewish state has occupied not just Palestine, but America too. Our democracy, our country, the United States of America , is severely compromised and nearly overthrown, destroyed from within.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid