CMEP Bulletin: Peace Talks Post-Mortem
Weekly update from Churches for Middle East Peace
On July 30, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry stood at the White House with Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to announce that peace talks were officially restarted. At the end of his remarks, Secretary Kerry said he would be the only one authorized to speak about the progress and, “that means that no one should consider any reports, articles, or other – or even rumors – reliable, unless they come directly from me, and I guarantee you they won’t.”
Remarkably, leaks were held to a minimum during the nine-month duration of the talks. As of now, these negotiations are “on pause.” One prominent U.S. official is speaking out, likely off the record, about what went right and the future possibilities of negotiations, but mostly he spoke about what went wrong: settlement construction.
An anonymous U.S. official told Yedioth Ahronoth, “There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state… That does not reconcile with the agreement.” Haaretz reports that the source for this interview was likely Ambassador Martin Indyk, special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
According to Israeli watchdog group Peace Now, negotiations were a boon to the settlement enterprise. They calculated that, “During the 9 months of Secretary Kerry’s efforts in the region, the Israeli Government promoted plans and tenders for at least 13,851 housing units in the settlements and East Jerusalem – an average of 50 units per day and 1,540 units per month.” Most notably, “the average yearly number of tenders was 4 times higher compared to previous years.”