Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, has dinner with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem
Since the Israel-Palestine peace talks finally collapsed, the two sides have been engaged in a blame game. Was it the fault of the Israelis, who failed to freeze settlement construction and reneged on a promise to release Palestinian prisoners? Or was it the Palestinians? They, too, broke an agreement to halt unilateral action when they applied for membership of 15 international conventions—signaling that they might attempt to seek international recognition of statehood as a way of side-stepping the talks—and then struck a surprise deal with Hamas, a group that does not recognise Israel, which would see a unity government leading Palestine.
Amid all the finger-pointing, relations continue to deteriorate. In an interview with The Independent over the weekend, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said that if Israel continues to “undermine agreements… through continuous settlement activity, and lately though destroying the peace process, they are paving the way for the destruction of what remains of our relationship,” threatening to freeze cooperation with Israeli security operations in the West Bank. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry appears to be hoping that talks may be resumed after a hiatus.
In surveys conducted during the talks, citizens on both sides of the Green Line dividing Israel from the West Bank showed support for a two-state solution, and were willing, they said, to make certain compromises in order to achieve peace. But neither population was optimistic about the chance of success—after all, two decades of peace talks haven’t succeeded.
Part of the problem was that both leaders were beset by infighting. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was grappling with hardliners within his coalition who made it difficult to agree significant concessions—Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, threatened to withdraw his party from the coalition if a proposal to release Arab Israeli prisoners went ahead, potentially leaving Netanyahu without a majority; while housing minister Uri Ariel, also of the Jewish Home, was accused of attempting to sabotage the talks in April when he unexpectedly announced a tender for 700 new Israelisettlement homes in East Jerusalem, an area that the Palestinians were hoping to claim as their capital under a two-state solution. There was never a unified front from Israel’s coalition government,…