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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid