The stage is set for the revival of peace talks in Washington between Israel and the Palestinians amid skepticism in the Palestinian territories that the latest round of international diplomacy that seeks to establish an independent Palestinian state will make much headway.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, will preside over the re-launch of talks on Wednesday in the presence of the Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The 22-nation Arab League backs these talks. However, Israel’s refusal so far to extend its moratorium on fresh construction in occupied Palestinian territories, which expires on September 26, threatens to disrupt Washington’s new initiative. The international “Quartet” group, which also includes Russia, the European Union (E.U) and the United Nations as members, backs the resumption of negotiations.
The Palestinians have threatened to walk out of direct talks, unless Israel extends the freeze on new housing, which can impact on the nature of the future Palestinian State.
Addressing the media on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad raised his apprehensions about Israel undermining the viability of a Palestinian State. “What kind of state does Mr. Netanyahu have in mind when he says ‘Palestinian state’?” Mr. Fayyad said.
He warned that “adverse facts” established on the ground would make the two-state solution “more and more difficult to implement”. The Palestinians want that the West Bank and Gaza Strip should comprise their future state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
People for direct and indirect talks
While not rejecting the talks, the Palestinian people are less than hopeful about their outcome. According to a poll published by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, 31.7 per cent of the Palestinian public favours revival of direct negotiations.
However, around similar numbers want that the ongoing indirect talks should continue. A further 31.1 % are of the view that negotiations should be suspended.
The poll also revealed that more than 60 per cent felt that Mr. Obama is not capable of delivering on an independent Palestinian state.
Hamas rejects talks
The Palestinian Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip has strongly rejected the upcoming talks. In comments posted on the website of the pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Center, Hamas leader Osama Hamdan was quoted as saying that Mr. Abbas would “cede major Palestinian rights” during the upcoming talks. He added that for the U.S. the talks were a “face-saving” exercise.
However, imparting a positive spin to the prospects of talks, U.S. State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley said the Obama administration visualised that negotiations could achieve success “within a one-year time frame”. “That is what our goal is,” Mr. Crowley said on Monday.