Mid-East Talks Losing Its Steam. By Manish Rai


Israel and the Palestinians angrily accused each other of undermining United States led peace efforts in the region. Palestinians said they took retaliatory step in response to Israel's failure to fulfil its pledge to free some two dozen Palestinian prisoners. Israel said it first wanted a Palestinian commitment to keep talks going beyond the end of the month. The talks have struggled since they began in July, stalling over Palestinian opposition to Israel's demand that it be recognised as a Jewish state, and over Israeli settlements, internationally deemed illegal, in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now because of behaviour of both the parties it seems that there is no common platform remaining for Israel and Palestine to sit and talk. Israel officials indicated that it would not go through with the release of Palestinian prisoners and, the PLO requested that the US administration ensure that Israel fulfil its commitment. And in retaliation Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas signed 15 international conventions that could pave the way for a renewed attempt to gain United Nation statehood. This move of Palestinian really upset Israelis. In reaction to this Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened that Israel would take its own unilateral steps in response to the Palestinians’ move to join international conventions and reiterated that a Palestinian state could be created only through direct negotiations, not through empty statements and not by unilateral moves.
In this environment, whatever slim hopes there ever were of a peace deal have receded even further. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is also showing an adamant attitude by rejecting a plea from John Kerry US Secretary of state to withdraw the treaty applications. On the other hand Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ignored US appeals to refrain from tit-for-tat moves, asking for a range of options to be drawn up for retaliation. This adamant attitude of both the parties has even made the patience of Secretary of State John Kerry's exhausted. Speaking in Morocco, his frustration was palpable. He said there are limits to the amount of time and effort the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward. But we're not going to sit here indefinitely. Israel’s retaliatory measures could include withholding transfers of millions of dollars in taxes and fees that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. It seems like that this peace process will also meet the fate of previous one like- The Oslo peace process which launched in 1993 whose a large part initially conducted in secret brought the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel face to face for the first time, establishing bilateral agreements that saw the creation of the Palestinian Authority as an interim government in Gaza and portions of the West Bank. The toughest issues of disagreement between the two parties such as Israeli settlements and the question of the right of return of Palestinian refugees were deliberately left to be dealt with later. That later at first envisaged as a period of five years has dragged on through initiatives and presidents, through military operations and an intifada, for more than two decades.
Although many experts does not believe a third intifada (uprising) will break out on 1 May after the deadline of peace talks that is April 29 if the talks fail, the situation might turn out to be very serious, although more likely to result in a period of extended international lawfare than in actual warfare between the two sides if the Palestinian leadership follows up on its threat to go to the international criminal court and international court of justice. Palestinians complain that nothing has been achieved in eight months of negotiations and that the Israelis have refused to discuss specifics of the conflict, such as the status of East Jerusalem and the borders of a new Palestinian state. “Israel wants never-ending ­negotiations, negotiations for the sake of negotiating, while it buys time to build more settlements,” a top Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Voice of Palestine radio. And on their hand Mr Netanyahu said “Unilateral actions from the Palestinians will be answered with unilateral actions from our side”. He blamed the Palestinians for the current impasse over the US-sponsored peace talks. So a kind of blame game is going on between Israel and Palestine where each side is trying hard to shift the onus of failure of talks which is very much expected on other.
Moreover the hostiles are growing between the two sides even before the talks are formally ended. In East Jerusalem, Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies are at their most intense. As the EU notes, Palestinians have been starved of municipal funds, deprived of schools and blocked from commercial activity, and are leaving, heading for the greater security of West Bank cities. In recent weeks, Palestinians in sections of East Jerusalem have even discovered that, despite its claims to treat Jerusalem as its “unified capital”, Israel has stopped supplying them with water. Israeli dispossession policies are not limited to the occupied territories. Foreign minister Avigodor Lieberman’s plan to redraw the borders to strip part of Israel’s large Palestinian minority of its citizenship received a major fillip last month. For the first time government lawyers rejected the opinion of international law experts and gave their blessing to what the liberal Haaretz daily called Lieberman’s programme of “ethnic cleansing” of its own citizens. Just few days before Palestinians fired rockets at Israel, which responded with warplanes attacking military targets in the Gaza Strip. It's highly doubtful the two sides will broker a final peace agreement, given years of bitterness and sharp differences over borders, claims to Jerusalem and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. But the talks should continue if only to ward off a new Palestinian uprising against Israelis that would surely lead to a surge in violence. So both the sides should give it a last try for talks to be success otherwise no one knows when again they will sit on table to negotiate.
(Author is freelance columnist based in New Delhi and Editor of a geo-political website www.viewsaround.com can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com)

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