CMEP Bulletin: Domestic Politics Overshadow Moribund Peace Process
Weekly new digest from Churches for Middle East Peace
Future Talks Uncertain
The “talks about talks” that took place between key Israeli and Palestinian envoys in Jordan last month have stalled out, with little hope of restarting. In what appears to be an effort to keep some sort of forward movement, the international community has sent the UN’s top diplomat to prod Israelis and Palestinians to return to the table.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this week that Israelis and Palestinians are running out of time to resolve their conflict. “Our highest priority must be to return to negotiations, not merely procedural talks but genuine and substantive neogations to resolve the core issues,” said Ban during a speech in Tel Aviv.During his two-week trip to the region he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, urging all sides to refrain from provocative actions that undermine trust. In particular, he emphasized that Israelis must make confidence-building measures if they want the Palestinians to continue talks. Haaretz reports that such gestures might include releasing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and increasing Palestinian control over areas B and C in the West Bank.
Yossi Alpher told Americans for Peace Now he thinks such steps might be possible. There are, “apparently some favorable indications that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu would consider Israeli confidence-building gestures if the talks continue, though he has backed down on commitments in this regard repeatedly over the past three years,” Alpher explained. Alpher is an Israeli writer and analyst who does a weekly interview with APN.
In the days leading up to Ban’s visit, Israelis and Palestinians were not on their best behavior. In an effort to win support of voters during the week of Likud party primaries in Israel, Netanyahu announced subsidies and incentives to encourage Israelis to move to settlements in the West Bank.
Following the Likud elections, Netanyahu’s cabinet backtracked on the subsidy plan, amending the resolution to exclude the 70 West Bank settlements from the incentive package unless Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approves them.
The UN secretary general spoke out against settlements, saying settlement activity, “does not help the ongoing peace process. They [Israelis] should refrain from further settlement for the sake of ongoing peace talks. This can be a way of expressing goodwill gestures.”
Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel, putting nearby residents on high alert with the terrorizing attacks. The four rockets landed in fields, causing no injuries or damage. When visiting Gaza on Thursday, Ban condemned the practice, saying, “All this violence must stop. I would urge the Palestinians from Gaza: they must stop firing rockets on the Israeli side … this killing of civilians is not acceptable.”
The coming weeks could bring more news on whether or not the Israeli-Palestinian talks will continue. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is expected to consult with the Arab League next week, hoping to shore up support before making a decision.
Click here to continue this CMEP Bulletin, including the following items:
- Future talks uncertain
- Netanyahu wins Likud primary elections
- The politics of foreign aid
- Hamas diplomatic tour
- Update: Exporting from Gaza
- Save the date: 2012 CMEP Advocacy Conference-June 18-19, in Washington, DC