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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid