JERUSALEM,3 April-2014,Adam Gonn (Xinhua): U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday cancelled a planned trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah as his efforts to extend the deadline for reaching a framework for a peace agreement appears to be crumbling.
Palestinian-Israeli Peace talks hang in balance with complete breakdown
When Kerry last July announced that peace talks would restart with the goal of a framework agreement for a final deal to be presented by April, Israel agreed to release a total 104 Palestinian prisoners in four groups. The last group was scheduled to be released on March 29; however Israel has postponed the release citing fear that the Palestinians will abandon the talk once the prisoners are free.
In a move that further complicate the situation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday applied for membership in 15 United Nations agencies, a move that angered Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Abbas has promised not to take any unilateral actions while the negotiations are ongoing.
However, it’s unlikely that the talks will completely fail. Although, Kerry, according to the New York Times, feels that he has done as much as he can to help the parties to reach an agreement; there are also reports in local media saying that the last batch of prisoner release would be amended and a new deadline for the talks will be extended to January 2015.
Analysts told Xinhua that despite the current tension, the talks would continue since they are in everybody’s interest and since neither Israel nor the Palestinians wants to be seen as one responsible for breakdown, with the negative impact this would have on relations with the White House.
Prof. Eyal Zisser, of Tel Aviv University, told Xinhua on Wednesday that “there are those who say that we are very close to a success so it’s important to keep the momentum.”
“There are those who say we aren’t very close at all but nevertheless it’s better to have negotiations even if we know that they aren’t going to lead us anywhere, rather than to find ourselves outside any political process with all its implications, ” he added.
One such implication is the possibility of a new large scale Palestinian uprising or intifada on the West Bank, which would be detrimental to Palestinian self-rule and to Israel’s security and economy.
It’s “in the interest of everyone to continue with the talks,” Zisser said, adding “we are talking here about politicians, Kerry is a politician, Netanyahu is a politician; and for a politician a day is important, a week is more important and a month and a year (even more so).”
“If you extend the talks to the end of 2014 you give them air to breathe for another seven months and that’s something great so it’s worthwhile for them. From this limited narrow approach one comes to the conclusion that it’s in their interest and they will do their best to reach these goals,” Zisser said.
The deal reported in local media would include the release of the 26 Palestinian prisoners who were scheduled to be released last Saturday, in addition to 400 prisoners that Israel would choose. The 400 prisoners would most likely consist of petty criminal without any links to crimes like murder. In return the U. S. would release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who is serving life in prison for spying on the U.S. and who needs to be pardoned by President Barack Obama to be released.
“Eventually they will reach some sort of an understanding, a shaky one and in the last minute,” Zisser predicted.
TUG OF WAR
Dr. Anat Kurz, of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that while a new deal will eventually be agreed upon, however it might not be in the next few days.
“The Palestinians will not hurry to drop their plan to apply to international forums which would probably provide Israel with just another reason to prevent the demands and maybe make new ones,” Kurz said.
Kurz was referring to Netanyahu’s demand that Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which was rejected by Abbas.
Kurz added that “there is no contradiction the Palestinians will continue pressing for acknowledgment or endorsement of international forums for their right as an independent state. Israel and the U.S. administration will continue to demand that the Palestinians get back to the negotiation table.”
The Palestinians have for a long time been seeking full membership in the U.N. and while the U.S. and Israel view the latest applications as a breach of trust, all parties are aware that the U.S. would veto any such resolution at the Security Council as it stated.