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Hillary Clinton meets with Palestinian and Israeli. Is something cooking?

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process seems to be stirring, and the US is calling it 'very much alive.' But analysts doubt anything significant can be achieved before the US elections in November.

By Staff writer / June 20, 2012



Washington

The dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process is showing signs of stirring – prompted by renewed Palestinian threats of a unilateral declaration of statehood, Israeli worries over the long-term implications of abandoning the two-state solution, and a recent series of quiet contacts between the two sides.

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And then there’s the desire on the part of the Obama White House – which was scorched by its decision to make Middle East peace a top priority as of Inauguration Day 2009 – to avoid having the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rear up as a time-consuming distraction as it enters the fall presidential campaign.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met separately Wednesday with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, the latest signs of a renewed US interest in demonstrating that the peace process is not dead.

Yet despite the flurry of speculation the meetings have caused about prospects for a return to negotiations, the chances of anything substantive happening before the November elections are slim, most Middle East analysts say.

“Right now there’s a vacuum, and a realization that a vacuum is the worst thing you can have, given what can happen to try to fill it,” says Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa program director for the International Crisis Group in Washington. “So I think the administration wants to do enough to keep the lid on the worst events that could occur, and they’re hoping something can be done to convince the Palestinians not to go to the UN” to unilaterally declare statehood, he adds. “But it’s hard to see anything serious happening until at least next year.”

Secretary Clinton made no public comments after the two meetings, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was continuing its efforts to keep the two sides talking.

Saying the peace process is "very much alive," Ms. Nuland told reporters the US is "looking for as much direct engagement between Israelis and Palestinians as we can have."

She skirted a question about a US role in reported efforts to set a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr. Mofaz, saying only that "Any combination of Israelis and Palestinians getting together and working on their issues would be a step in the right direction."

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