Just a few months after Obama’s first official visit to Israel, Israeli and Palestinian officials have agreed to re-open negotiations. John Kerry is pleased, having traveled many times to the region in his first months as Secretary of State.
Kerry can only hope the officials will overcome their unwillingness to cooperate, as both sides thus far have refused to budge when it comes to the most basic problem they face: land ownership.
Some in the global community suspect agreements to peace talks come not from an actual desire to resolve issues, but because the European Union has looked into prohibiting funding to Israeli settlements and businesses built on the West Bank, as it is land the Palestinians consider to be theirs.
Many countries condemn the Israeli developments on that land as illegal, despite Israel’s claim that the West Bank is their property. Their motivation for discussions with Palestine may very well stem from a fear of bans by the E.U. and other countries that could harm the Israeli economy. This would certainly impact the effectiveness of these peace talks, rendering them more as a show for the rest of the world rather than for resolving regional disputes.
Currently, Israel still rejects a return to the 1967 territorial lines, which the Palestinians, as well as many other third party mediators, seek. This has been the goal of peace talks between Israel and Palestine for roughly 20 years. The Palestinians remain intractable on the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and impeding their ability to return to their homes, which were claimed by Israeli forces years ago. Even though most Palestinians openly admit that it is unlikely they will act on this “right of return,” they stubbornly adhere to their claim.
Secretary Kerry hopes to gain some headway with problems by the West Bank, though the elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, could not garner majority support with leadership for the peace talks without some preconditions first. Officials are calling for a freeze on settlement construction in disputed territories and the guarantee that negotiations would begin by establishing 1967 borders, which Israel continues to reject.
Kerry carefully put forward a solution of basing the talks both on the 1967 territorial lines and acknowledgment of Israel as a Jewish state. The Gaza Strip, the second major disputed territory, remains controlled by Hamas, a militant Islamist group that refuses any negotiations with Israel.
Talks are set to begin in Washington in a matter of days with Saeb Erekat, who has a Ph.D. in the field of conflict resolution from Palestine, Tzipi Livni, a former Foreign Minister and Isaac Molho, a private attorney for the Prime Minister from Israel. Only time will tell if these discussions provide any progress at all in the stagnant relations of Israel and Palestine.
Featured photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.