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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora