The Middle East peace process is like a phoenix. Whenever anybody thinks that the process is moribund or dead, it starts stirring to life, though with a flicker of life. The latest mediation by US Secretary of State John Kerry was showing signs of sure death until a few days ago, with the mediator himself eschewing optimism in the face of ugly realities on the ground. But now comes the news that there is hope of the negotiations getting some more oxygen. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are hammering out a way to extend the talks beyond an April 29 deadline, a US official has said. More talks between the two sides will be held on Wednesday, the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, although it was not immediately clear if US lead negotiator Martin Indyk would take part.
Going by the past results, it should not be difficult to guess the life of the latest efforts. But Washington’s enthusiasm to keep the talks going in the face of huge challenges is definitely praiseworthy, especially the determination of Kerry. He has been at the receiving end from the Israelis, with some Israeli ministers openly criticizing and even abusing him for his sincere efforts. But the US official has been unfazed; he has invested plenty of his energy and valuable time on this issue to be dissuaded by the outbursts of some rightwing ministers who would go to any length to sabotage the talks.
Palestinians have long been saying that Israelis are not interested in peace and are resorting to deliberate measures to scuttle them. But the near failure of the latest effort has proved their stance. The US officials, including Kerry, have openly and secretly said that Tel Aviv is responsible for the stalemate. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu not only failed to honour its promises on Palestinian prisoner release, it continued its settlement expansion in blatant violation of international laws. Everybody associated with the peace process knows that confiscation of Palestinian land is a red line, and the fact that Israel continued to cross it even when the talks were going on shows they didn’t want the talks to continue.
If the Obama administration is genuinely interested in peace, what it has to do is not to bring the two sides to the negotiating table. Washington has to first force the Israeli government to abide by the international laws. The US policy of blindly supporting Israel in every atrocity has emboldened the Jewish state to cross all limits. Even after admitting that the Israeli side has been responsible for the stalemate, Washington has done nothing to chastise the Jewish state.