News / Middle East

Middle East Peace, Talking about Talking

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center right, on Friday, July 19, 2013 in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center right, on Friday, July 19, 2013 in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Cecily Hilleary
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making a major push to restart the long-dormant peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, but regional experts are predicting it will take a while to see if the talks make any progress.

“I wouldn’t start chilling the champagne yet,” Ilan Peleg, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said after Kerry announced July 19 that Israelis and Palestinians had “established a basis” for resuming peace talks.
Ilan PelegIlan Peleg
x
Ilan Peleg
Ilan Peleg


Peleg’s caution may be wise. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute goes back even before Israel became a state 65 years ago, and repeated attempts to solve it have failed.

Kerry’s latest diplomatic push centers around the same peace framework that has been on the table for more than three decades – creation of a separate Palestinian state on territory known as the West Bank between Israel and the Jordan River.

This time the main players are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, which represents West Bank Palestinians.

​“Kerry apparently has put enormous pressure on Abu Mazen [Abbas] to come around and begin discussions with no pre-conditions,” said Peleg, who is also a professor of government and law at Lafayette College. “There might have been even an explicit threat of cutting off American aid to the Palestinian Authority…”

Abbas has reportedly insisted that Israel agree to one of three conditions for peace talks: The release of 103 long-term Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank or a return to the borders as they were before the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz said this week Israel might release 82 prisoners, but only after peace talks are underway.

“Netanyahu’s maximal concessions still do not meet Abu Mazen’s minimal demands, and I believe this will become clear as the negotiations evolve,” Peleg said. “Bibi [Netanyahu] has insisted that negotiations should not be based on the 1967 lines... The bottom line is that U.N. Resolution 242 requires Israeli withdrawal on all fronts—Sinai, Golan, West Bank—and that the lines of June 4, 1967 are indeed the lines at the ‘basis’ of negotiations on establishing new lines.”

The problem is that any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would involve abandoning scores of Jewish settlements set up in the region since 1967, settlements in which more than 300,000 Israelis live.

And construction of Israeli West Bank settlements has always been a “deal killer,” says Peleg. He says it is not known what, if any, concessions have been made on this issue, but if settlement building continues in the West Bank, he believes even a minimalist deal would be impossible.

No more 'Mitsubishi agreements'

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is pushing a bill in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, that would require any peace agreement to be approved not just by the government, but by public referendum. Current law requires a referendum only if sovereign territory is to be given up to the Palestinians.

Some have suggested that the Netanyahu’s push for a referendum is either stalling for time or an attempt to shift responsibility for what would be an unpopular decision.  But others see it as a move to appease opposition from the right of Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

And Naftali Bennett, the economics minister and chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party, is making Netanyahu’s task even more difficult by insisting that there be no more “Mitsubishi agreements.”

Bennett’s reference is to a Knesset vote more than two decades ago on a peace initiative of the time, the so-called Oslo Accords. To win a majority vote, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reportedly promised a certain member of the Knesset a deputy-ministerial position and a private Mitsubishi automobile.

“A national referendum is the only way to prevent the country from tearing apart,” Bennett recently said.

Hard to get

Brent E. SasleyBrent E. Sasley
x
Brent E. Sasley
Brent E. Sasley

Given the obstacles, Brent E. Sasley, a Middle East scholar and assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, is wondering if this latest peace initiative will get off the ground.

“Right now, what we are seeing is both sides essentially playing to their own domestic audiences by throwing in different wrenches [obstacles], saying what they didn’t give up, sort of playing hard to get and so on.”

But despite that, Sasley says this is the most opportune moment for talks he has seen in some time. 

“I think the convergence of forces have finally started to impact on Netanyahu,” Sasley said. “You can see it in a lot of his speeches, where his focus is now security and broader strategic context, as opposed to land, biblical historical claims to the West Bank and that kind of thing.”

That said, Sasley doubts any final agreement will come out of this next round of talks, should they even take place.

“I’m skeptical that Netanyahu and Abbas would be the ones to sign an end of conflict agreement,” he said. “But I think there is a chance for the talks to be genuine, to move the process forward, which would then also set conditions for whichever leaders come after them.”

There are also doubts that Kerry will be able to invest the kind of time and energy he has so far invested just to get the parties to this stage of discussion. The fear is that the turmoil elsewhere in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Egypt, will command his attention instead.

 

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yesh Prabhu from: Bushkill, PA, USA 18324
July 25, 2013 3:01 PM
There is a simple step that President Obama can take that would resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict for good and liberate the Palestinians from Israel's occupation of Palestine. Obama should advise Netanyahu to freeze all settlements expansion and recognize the pre 1967 borders, with some mutually agreed land swaps, as the stating point for negotiations. And he should tell Netanyahu that if he doesn't comply with the advice, the US would no loner support, with good conscience, Israel at any International forum and especially at the UN Security Council. The US, in effect, will stop using its veto to protect Israel at the UN. This would scare not just Netanyahu, but any and all of Israel's right-wing politicians who are opposed to granting freedom to the Palestinians. This would also restore some of the luster lost by the US due to its unquestioning support of Israel and all of Israel's atrocities, no matter how abominable.
Yesh Prabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 25, 2013 1:50 PM
"By the Rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, and where we wept; when we remembered Zion. When the wicked carried us away captivity; required from us a song, - how can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land...." This song reminds us of how, many years ago, this land became contentious in the Middle East. To date this problem lingers. Every Israeli leader knows this truth and is afraid to toy with it. Every Palestinian child knows the truth of this but has been taught by what the Iranians call and celebrate as Jerusalem Day to make sure that the son of Isaac does not rule over the son of Ishmael. But the land in question is one land, and the people one offspring of Abraham. But they are divided by bitter hatred because of Hagar and Sarah. Awful how history can outlive its own memory. This issue is not helped by Israel's stubbornness or the antisemitism that has become the hallmark of the Arab and islamic world. Truly neither Netanyahu nor Abbas will bring this matter to an end. Its end will be when the ONE who sent Abram aside from his father's house to found the land, and who set the place apart as the Promised Land, decides who owns and inhabits the land. At the end, it will be either they agree to live together or make it a perpetual battleground which posture it seems to have accepted to be even in the present. Posterity will tell the story.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid