Peace Talks on Hold
As the November 2 midterm elections in the U.S. approach, most diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians have been put on hold. McClatchy Newspapers quoted a member of the Palestinian negotiating team as saying “The time frame we are following has been designed around the elections in America. We have been asked not to issue announcements that could embarrass negotiation officials.”
However, some public positioning continues. On October 18, in response to long-standing Israeli concerns about the finality of any agreement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he is willing to “end all historic claims against Israel” once an independent Palestinian state is established. Hamas responded that “Abbas is not authorized to act on behalf of the Palestinian people and we declare insistence on all Palestinian national rights that none can capitulate or surrender.” A much heralded meeting between Fatah and Hamas leadership that was to take place on October 20 was once again put off because they couldn’t agree on where to meet.
The New York Times and others reported this week that less than four weeks after the end of the settlement moratorium new construction in settlements in the West Bank has resumed at an astounding pace. Construction is underway on hundreds of new units, some of it east of the planned or actual separation barrier on land that would be difficult to incorporate into any potential land swaps.
While most of the political energy in the United States is consumed by the elections, the U.S. administration has not remained silent on the peace process. In a October 20 address to a well-dressed audience at the American Task Force on Palestine’s 5th Annual Gala, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace.” While acknowledging the accomplishment of institution building that have taken place in the West Banks, Sec. Clinton went on to say, “Economic and institutional progress are definitely important, indeed necessary, but not sufficient. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people will never be satisfied until there is a two-state solution, a two-state solution ensuring dignity, justice, and security for all.”
With direct negotiations stalled, there has been increased speculation about possible alternatives to a negotiated agreement. Palestinian leaders have indicated that they are interested in unilaterally seeking recognition of the Palestinian state by international bodies or by the UN General Assembly where the United States doesn’t have veto power. Israeli government officials have responded by saying that there is no substitute for direct talks and that, “All these different avenues are dead ends that lead nowhere.”
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