Even though peace talks between Israel and Palestine have commenced, optimism is guarded – in fact people on both sides of the divide and around the world see hopes for a new future as rather dim. 

Israel’s settlements are an impediment despite a gesture by Israel of releasing some prisoners. Many Palestinians will feel that the prisoners should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Still, more such gestures – and of a deeper intent – can create the climate for peace. The impending visit of the UN Secretary General is, perhaps, a high profile nudge for success. 

Israel feels the pressure from an international community which has warmly received Palestine into the UN. Many other UN bodies will now open up access to Palestine. There is also the Palestinian threat to take Israel to International justice institutions and the fear of sanctions and boycotts. The question is how much those pressures will enable forward movement. On the other hand, Palestinians do not feel they have too much more to give up that will enhance the negotiations.      

The world will keep hope alive for an end to a decades-long conflict in which Palestinians have suffered severe hardships and occupation of their land. To the Israeli claim that their security is paramount, Palestinians argue back that when once justice is done, security will automatically follow.

The distrust and divisions run deep and one must wait patiently, but not indefinitely, for a permanent settlement.

But there is always hope. In a Minute approved in July, 2013, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting (LEYM), a regional Quaker organization encompassing Ohio, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania, expresses its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. They stated: “A key step towards stability and safety for both Israelis and Palestinians depends on a just agreement regarding the Palestinian lands that Israel has occupied, illegally, according to international law, since 1967. Therefore Lake Erie Yearly Meeting calls on Friends everywhere to join the boycott of products made in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements and to divest from companies that support Israel’s military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. We join with American Friends Service Committee, Britain Yearly Meeting, Monthly Meetings, and religious and civil society organizations throughout the world in taking such steps in working for peace.”

The articles in this issue of PIEF POST present the issues now being contended with in the negotiations.

UN chief to tour Middle East this week
UN chief Ban Ki-moon will tour the Middle East this week to “buttress” Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the UN announced Tuesday. The trip will come on the heels of Ban’s visit to Pakistan, which wraps up Wednesday, and as Israeli and Palestinian parties are slated to return to the negotiating table for their next round of talks. The secretary-general will visit Jordan, Ramallah and Jerusalem in a tour meant to buoy the peace process, UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.

Read report

Peace talks under threat of collapse over settlements row
Middle East peace talks could “collapse” due to continuing Israeli settlement expansion, a senior Palestinian official warned Tuesday, on the eve of the scheduled resumption of the fragile process. “Settlement expansion goes against the US administration’s pledges and threatens to cause the negotiations’ collapse,” Yasser Abed Rabbo told AFP.

The comments came after Israeli authorities approved the construction of a total of more than 2,000 settlement units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the days leading up to Wednesday’s scheduled new round of direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Read more
Also read

Tensions high and expectations low as negotiators kick off talks
With tensions high and expectations low, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators kicked off their first substantive round of peace talks in nearly five years, huddling together at an undisclosed location in search of an end to decades of conflict.

The hopes are dim but faint hopes exist. Israel has reasons to push forward. After receiving upgraded status at the UN last year, the Palestinians have threatened to resume their campaign to join additional international bodies to pursue war crimes charges and other anti-Israel measures if the talks fail. Many Israelis also fear the country could come under international pressure, or even economic boycotts, over the settlement issue.
Read more

26 Prisoners welcomed with joy
Israel released 26 prisoners’ hours before the resumption of the second round of the US brokered peace negotiations.  Eleven men were transported to the West Bank and another fifteen to Gaza. As they arrived in buses, the released the tearful individuals were greeted by fireworks and thousands of ecstatic supporters.  Many of the grown men have not hadcontact with the free world since their youth.
Read more
Jerusalem- the key to future peace

Jerusalem remains a key issue to be resolved in negotiations. How the question of Jerusalem is resolved will not shape Palestinian-Israeli relations but also the nature of dealings between Israel and Arab states. Israel’s defiant policies that create geo-demographic facts-on-the-ground have been deplored by the UN Security Council and by large parts of the international community. Unless Israel budges dramatically from its currently held positions, the prospects of peace remain slim.
Read document

Soldiers Bombard Gaza
Israeli military sources have reported that the Israeli Air Force fired, on Wednesday at night, a number of missiles targeted different areas in the Gaza Strip.
Full Story
Also see

Israel defies EU conditions
Israel warned on Wednesday that it might shun a key EU research programme unless a compromise is found over the bloc’s guidelines which bar funding to Jewish settlement entities. Its position was spelt out at a meeting with the European Union on Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020, the bloc’s six-year funding plan for research and innovation, the foreign ministry said.
See report
Compiled by Ranjan Solomon, Communications Consultant, Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum