News / Middle East

    Can Israeli-Palestinian Talks Succeed?

    FILE - Israeli parliament employees set up a Palestinian and Israeli flag ahead of a meeting between Israeli parliament members and a delegation of Palestinian politicians and businessmen aimed at encouraging Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, July 31, 2013.
    FILE - Israeli parliament employees set up a Palestinian and Israeli flag ahead of a meeting between Israeli parliament members and a delegation of Palestinian politicians and businessmen aimed at encouraging Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, July 31, 2013.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi
    A new public opinion poll indicates pessimism is growing among both Israelis and Palestinians about the status of peace negotiations and the long-term prospects for an agreement. Negotiations resumed this summer following mediation by the United States.
     
    Shibley Telhami, professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland, who conducted the survey believes that pessimism on both sides is a real barrier to making progress.

    “Only four percent of Israelis and 11 percent of Palestinians think the American mediation effort will succeed,” Telhami said. “When you start with such pessimism, it is very hard to get the two sides to compromise.”
     
    Telhami said that a small majority on both sides supported a “package deal,” a proposal along the lines of what experts expect a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian accord to look like. 

    “Looking at these results, it seems that one of the few things that Israelis and Palestinians can agree on is that peace is not on their horizon,” Telhami said. “A majority of both Israelis and Palestinians are pessimistic about both the current round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and long-term peace prospects.”

    In July, the Obama administration launched an ambitious effort to restart talks aimed at trying to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two sides only agreed to enter a nine-month period of talks, under U.S. sponsorship, after heavy American pressure. They have since held a series of quiet meetings which yieded no tangible results, yet plenty of finger-pointing.

    The Palestinians accuse Israel of negotiating in bad faith by continuing to build settlements in areas they hope will become part of a future Palestinian state. Israel counters by saying that the Palestinians are hindering peace because they continue to refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
     
    U.S. cautiously optimistic

    The Obama administration acknowledges that the process is difficult and will take time.

    In his remarks Saturday to an annual forum of top Israeli and U.S. policymakers and experts convened by the Brookings Institution' Saban Center for Middle East Policy, President Barack Obama lowered expectations for the outcome of renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks.

    “I think it is possible over the next several months to arrive at a framework that does not address every single detail," he said.

    The U.S. president said that the onus rests on both sides.

    “Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli military and intelligence folks have to make that determination,” he said. “And ultimately, the Palestinians have to also recognize that there is going to be a transition period. But it’s going to require some very tough decisions.”

    Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to the same group, said Israeli security was a focus of the recent talks.

    “We are examining every potential security scenario, something on the border, something in the future, terrorism in the future, a weakness in the Hashemite Kingdom, whatever it might be,” he said.

    Kerry anticipated a similar U.S. effort for Palestinian security.

    “We anticipate that the United States will continue to play a leading role in building – helping to build Palestinian capacity, helping to build their capabilities to maintain law and order; to cooperate in an effective judicial system; to counter terrorism and smuggling; and manage border security, customs, immigration,” he said.

    A different U.S. role

    Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Saban Center, insisted that the U.S. should play a more active role if a peace deal is to be reached.
     
    “Everyone knows there is an enormous power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians, and unless this imbalance is addressed through some form of U.S. pressure, the Israelis can afford to ignore the main concerns of the Palestinians such as the settlement expansion,” Elgindy said.
     
    Telhami, who is also a fellow at the Saban Center, agreed that it would be impossible for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate every term of each issue on their own.
     
    “Only a package comprehensive deal has a shot; where there are tradeoffs with a potential to end the conflict and that package can only come from the U.S.,” he said.
     
    Elgindy argues that this put the U.S. into the role of a true mediator, instead of just facilitator.
     
    “There is no way this long conflict would be resolved without the U.S. putting a peace proposal on the table and pressure both sides to compromise,” he said.
     
    Saban Center director Tamara Cofman Wittes, who served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, stressed timing was of the essence for the U.S. role to be useful.
     
    “Secretary Kerry would have to judge when the moment is right for the U.S. to make its own package of peace proposals,” she said.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.