Middle-East:No Peace Talks Progress Anytime Soon
Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton that Palestinians would not re-start peace talks with Israel if there was not a complete freeze on Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Despite the efforts of US envoy George Mitchell, there is very few signs that the peace talks themselves, suspended in December because of the Israeli attack on Gaza, can be revived anytime soon.
“Obviously, we can’t want this more than the parties want it. I mean, that is just the way negotiations are. But the fact that the US is engaged, and that we are serious about this engagement, is, in and of itself, I think a very positive message. The US continues to have very serious questions about the settlements that Israel has promoted. We understand that to a large extend, it has to do with Israel security needs and fears about trying to have a defensible perimeters around Israel,” Clinton told the BBC in an interview.
Secretary of State Clinton managed to contradict herself by saying that the Obama administration has “very serious questions about the settlements” while justifying the very same settlements for “Israel security needs”. In Secretary of State Clinton’s opinion, the peace drive has been complicated by the UN’s Goldstone report accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the Gaza war. The Obama administration has sided with Israel in its view that the report is biased against the Jewish state.
Secretary Of State Clinton met President Abbas in the UAE, and is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tonight. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that the Mitchell agreement presented to Abbas was short of the complete settlements freeze demanded by the Palestinians. Erakat also mentioned that Israel had refused to stop the construction of 3,000 homes in the West Bank.
The American diplomatic effort appears to be in trouble, according to Middle-East analyst Mouin Rabbani.
“It began in January under the new administration. Now in late October, early November, there is really very little to distinguish it from that of its predecessor. Once again, nothing is better than something, if the something only serves as a cover for further Israeli consolidation of the occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. US policy appears to have become all about process and no longer about peace. The Americans are now just looking for formulas to keep the process going,” Rabbani told Radio France Internationale in an interview.
The views of Rabbani are widely shared in the Middle-East. By siding with Israel on all issues, the Obama administration has missed the opportunity to correct decades of US policy failure to force Israel into a fair compromise with the Palestinians. To make a sport analogy, if we compare the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis to a game, the US would be the referee. It is hard for the referee to be credible if the referee wear the jersey of one team, which is what the United States has done, all in the name of “the special relationship” with Israel.