I have written far too little about the whole Israeli-Palestinian peace process in this blog of mine. In many ways the whole mess just seems far too complex for me to grapple with. If Indeed I had wanted to, I would surely have lost my mind due to perpetual futility of it all. I came here an optimist, but am most definitely now a pessimist (or realist?).
Here is a simple example of how fruitless the diplomatic process can be at the moment. Today the US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, George Mitchell, issued the much awaited announcement that the “Israeli and Palestinian leadership have accepted indirect talks. As we’ve said many times, we hope that these will lead to direct negotiations as soon as possible.” Talks, albeit indirect, are an important step forward given that neither side has been willing to talk to each for over a year now. This is on the eve of the visit to Israel of US vice-president Joe Biden – Obama has yet to visit Israel as President. George Mitchell concludes his statement by underling the importance for both sides to “refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks.”
No later had I read this statement than my eyes were drawn to the news headline, “Israel Backs West Bank Building: Israel authorises the building of 112 new apartments in a settlement.” So much for refraining from provocative actions.
Despite the overwhelming wishes of the Israeli public to see a sustainable peace deal and 2-state solution agreed upon asap, the present Israeli government sure does seem hell-bent on testing the patience of all parties concerned. The timing of the announcement was surely not coincidental?? And the settlements keep growing… And the peace deal ebbs further away…
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the move put the talks at risk.”If the Israeli government wants to sabotage Mitchell’s efforts by taking such steps, let’s talk to Mitchell about maybe not doing this if the price is so high,” he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
Israeli Environment Minister Gilad Erdan said the settlement was “an exception” to the building pause.
“At the end of last year the government decided to freeze construction, but this decision provided for exceptions in cases of safety problems for infrastructure projects started before the freeze,” he told Army Radio.
Peace Now, an Israeli group, said the announcement raised questions about Israel’s commitment to the peace process.
“The Israeli government is welcoming the US Vice-President by demonstrating, to our regret, that it has no genuine intention to advance the peace process,” the group’s settlement expert Hagit Ofran told AP.
All settlements in the the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
Source: BBC News, Israel Backs West Bank Building