Israeli and Palestinian negotiators fault US focus on settlements
Both sides, together with the US, appear to be regrouping after the Obama administration gave up on securing another settlement freeze.
The US decision to give up on securing an Israeli settlement freeze has left Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas disappointed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a momentary victory, and observers criticizing the Obama administration's peacemaking strategy.Skip to next paragraph
Indeed, analysts and seasoned negotiators see Tuesday's announcement as the end of a mishandled chapter in Arab-Israeli diplomacy, in which Washington's overriding focus on settlements ultimately failed.
Instead of convening negotiations on borders, Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees, the process came to a dead end with each side blaming the other for the failure.
"It looked like the American exercise was going into futility,'' says Nabil Shaath, a veteran Palestinian negotiator who alleges that Mr. Netanyahu's stated support for negotiations is insincere. "We are not going back to negotiations with Israelis. It won't work. [Netanyahu] hasn't shown one iota of interest in discussing the permanent settlement.''
Back to the drawing board
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to make a policy speech on Friday on the way forward in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Obama administration views progress towards a peace agreement key to improving US standing in the Middle East at a time when it is confronting Iran on its nuclear program, fighting a war in Afghanistan, and trying to withdraw from Iraq.
There is a sense among both Israeli and Palestinian officials that everyone is going back to the drawing board. Some Israeli and American experts believe the time has come for the US to put its own peace principles on the table and pressure the sides into discussions.
After criticizing the idea of returning to indirect talks of earlier this year, Mr. Shaath said the Palestinians are hoping for new US pressure on Israel to rein in settlements. But they've also already come up with an alternative to bilateral talks: seek international recognition of Palestinian statehood.