United States officials working to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine are reportedly frustrated by the attitude of the Israeli authorities.
Speaking to a leading Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea, on condition of anonymity, the officials expressed displeasure over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of expeditiously constructing settlements in the West Bank, which forms the bulk of the Palestinian territories.
The 2013-2014 peace process began in July 2013 after efforts by the US Secretary of State John Kerry to resume the negotiations.
Palestinian Bid For Statehood
The decades-long Palestinian efforts to gain statehood and international recognition gained impetus in 2012 after President Mahmoud Abbas managed to succeed in getting the United Nations (UN) General Assemble to formally recognize Palestine as a non-member state through majority vote.
Further efforts to gain statehood were put on hold as the peace talks began in 2013. However, the failure of the talks can lead the Palestinian authorities to reorganize their efforts for the goal.
According to the assessment of the situation by the US officials, “As of now, nothing is stopping the Palestinians from turning to the international community. The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end — whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.”
Should Netanyahu Be Blamed?
Many in the US administration believe that Netanyahu is largely to be blamed for the failure of the talks. His decision to build settlements in the West Bank has been highly controversial and was condemned by the Palestinians and even the Americans who accredit it to the failure of the negotiations.
In the interview with Barnea, US officials said, “There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort's failure, but people in Israel shouldn't ignore the bitter truth - the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don't believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state.”
The officials were also dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s underlying ambitions to pursue the talks which were no more than a façade to strengthen his grip on the government. They said, “Netanyahu was using the announcements of tenders for settlement construction as a way to ensure the survival of his own government… [The] construction allowed ministers in his government to very effectively sabotage the success of the talks.”
US Warnings Of Impending Doom
Critics of the recent US efforts believed the peace process was headed towards failure from the very beginning. The US authorities themselves issued several warnings to the Israelis to change course, but failed.
President Obama himself warned, in an interview, that Israel may face international isolation and even sanctions if it failed to secure a deal with Palestine. Speaking to Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg a day before Netanyahu’s visit to the White House, the President had a clear message for him: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?”
John Kerry even went as far as to say that Israel will risk becoming an apartheid state if it fails to make peace. It was a bold statement. Kerry was the first US official of his stature to use the term ‘apartheid’ in the context of Israel. He also alerted Israel to a possibility of a third Palestinian uprising. "I mean, does Israel want a third Intifada?"
The failure of the peace process, despite the US claims to not repeat the same mistakes as the previous administrations, should be a wake-up call for the US government. It is a testament to the fact that appeasing Israel is no longer an option.
This is not the end of the road. Negotiating for peace is in the interest of all parties involved. However, the future approach by the US should involve actions, not threats. Although the US position on Israel has changed over the past few years, a lot more still needs to be done to achieve a viable outcome in the Middle East conundrum.