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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid