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Experts: Palestinians can return to negotiating table under U.S. pressure

Politics Materials 18 March 2010 15:36 (UTC +04:00)
Experts believe that although Palestine refused to start negotiations with Israel because of settlement activity in the West Bank, the position of the Palestinian authority could be changed if the United States exerts pressure.
Experts: Palestinians can return to negotiating table under U.S. pressure

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 18 / Trend U.Sadikhova /

Experts believe that although Palestine refused to start negotiations with Israel because of settlement activity in the West Bank, the position of the Palestinian authority could be changed if the United States exerts pressure.

After a week of tensions in U.S.-Israeli relations, which started because of Israel's refusal to stop the settlement activity in Jerusalem, the Israeli press reported that the parties addressed the diplomatic differences.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a telephone conversation with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden March 16, during whose visit the Israeli government decided to build 1,600 new homes in the East Jerusalem, which under international law is also referred to as occupied Palestinian territories.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton interpreted the Israeli decision as offensive to Washington.

However, on Tuesday Clinton criticized statements by media and some officials, adding that President Barack Obama's emissary for the Middle East, George Mitchell, will return soon to the region to launch indirect talks between the parties.

Meanwhile, Palestinian authorities have reiterated their commitment not to launch indirect talks with Israel brokered by the United States as long as the construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as capital of a future state, doesn't stop.

Columnist Al-Ayyam Mohammad Yaghi believes that Palestine does not have other alternative but to negotiate with Israel.

"The Palestinian administration knows that negotiation with the current Israeli government is fruitless," he told Trend . "However, they cannot say no to countries such as the United States and Europe which provide them with fiscal survival. Abbas cannot refuse talks with Israel because he has no other choice; his strategy is based on the forms of diplomatic confrontation."

However, the expert thinks that indirect talks with Israel are not in Palestine's interest because Israel will use the talks to continue construction.

"No state will protest that as long as the Palestinians are engaged in talks without peace. The Palestinians in this way are hanging themselves," he said.  

Ten days ago, Palestine agreed to indirect talks with the Netanyahu government, despite the absence of a complete freeze of settlement activity in East Jerusalem.

American political science professor Nathan J. Brown assesses the situation of the Palestinian leadership as a very difficult because its entire strategy, which is based on peace talks, but have not led to a settlement and are now viewed with distrust by most Palestinians.

"The Ramallah leadership is now insisting on some preconditions for negotiations because negotiations are unpopular and because they have not been successful," Middle East Studies Institute head at the George Washington University Brown told Trend . "But the Ramallah leadership is also dependent on the US, which is pushing for negotiations therefore, when the US presses the Palestinians to show up and negotiate, the Palestinians are caught."

The expert believes as long as the United States is pressuring Israel, the Palestinian leadership can afford to sit back.

British professor of international politics Nicola Pratt believes the credibility of Abbas's administration is damaged each time those negotiations fail to secure any gains for Palestinians.

"Fateh's [the ruling party in the West Bank] credibility to its Palestinian constituency depends upon it being able to negotiate with Israel," Professor of Middle East politics at the University of Warwick Pratt told Trend .

While Abbas insists on a complete cessation of settlement construction, Palestinian leaders call on Palestinians in the West Bank to defend the Muslim shrines from the "Judaization."

This sparked a wave of riots and severe clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army. In addition to the construction of new settlements a medieval synagogue opened next to the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Heads of paramilitary groups called upon to abandon the Arab peace initiative, which supports the normalization of the Arab-Israeli relations in the case of the signing of the armistice.

At this stage negotiations can be useful only if there is can be positive outcome which means any progress towards the final agreement, expert on Israeli politics Yossi Mekelberg said.

If the negotiations will run for the negotiations, it would be better not to start them, senior fellow of the British Royal Institute of International Studies, Chatham House Mekelberg told Trend .

"Abu Mazen's position is to demonstrate its leadership and to agree to hold talks with Israel. But as long as Israelis continue building the settlement, it makes it difficult to make any progress," he added.

To date, nearly half a million Jews live in the hundred-odd settlements built by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967.

The construction of settlements has become a major obstacle in the peace process today, the expert added.

""Israel's position is illogically logical: the settlements no doubt hinder any possibility for an Arab Palestinian state and the reaching of a peace agreement. On the other hand, Israel continues to build and expand settlements, given there is no peace agreement yet," the expert said.

Commenting on the Jewish state's action, Yaghi said that Israeli's government wanted to send clear message that settlement and mainly in Jerusalem is part of its official policy, and the U.S. should not question that. In his view, the U.S. accepted this policy after the failure of Mitchel efforts to move Israel back from this policy.

Observers believe that while Washington ponders what to do next, Israel will continue to strengthening its positions and to protect its interests.

Tension between Palestine and Israeli and the refusal of Israel to stop its settlement policy will be the main topic of discussion at the coming meeting of the Middle East Quartet to be held in Moscow March 19.

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