What role for US in new Israel-Palestinian peace talks? (+video)
The new Israel-Palestinian peace talks are just that, US officials insist – bilateral talks between the two parties. But the US will have an important role in prodding both sides toward compromise.
As relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks shift from Washington back to the region, a crucial factor will be the degree of US participation – how much American arm-twisting, and by whom – in what are to be bilateral negotiations between the two parties.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Israelis and Palestinians: A tense coexistence
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
With Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat at his side, Secretary of State John Kerry announced at the State Department Tuesday that all of the so-called final-status issues that stand in the way of settlement of the decades-old Mideast conflict will be on the table when talks resume in either Israel or the Palestinian territories in two weeks.
But one looming issue will be how a process that was practically willed into new life by a determined Mr. Kerry – and one which the parties appear to have agreed to in part as a means of maintaining good relations with the US – can be sustained as the pressure to deliver shifts to regional leaders.
RECOMMENDED: How much do you know about Israel? Take the quiz
It has been something of a mantra for years that no one can want a resolution of the conflict more than the parties themselves, and that truism is about to be put to the test. But no one doubts that the US will have to play a sustained role in the negotiations – ultimately with the participation of President Obama – if the talks are to succeed.
The trick will be for the US to get two parties that would almost certainly not be able to strike a deal on their own to see the talks not as a favor to the US but in the same light Kerry did Tuesday – as perhaps the last chance for “a lasting peace” that will pay “dividends” to everybody.
“Kerry has wanted these talks more than the parties do, he’s compelled them to it,” says Robert Danin, a longtime US diplomat in Middle East issues now at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
But going forward “the US role will be necessary but not sufficient,” he adds. “At some point the parties are going to have to change their calculations … and see concessions as painful steps leading to a greater good.”