An editorial in Tuesday’s New York Times called on the US government to abandon its mediation efforts between Israelis and Palestinians and focus on “other major international challenges,” asserting that no amount of American pushing and shoving could succeed when the two sides were reluctant to make peace themselves.
In the opinion piece, titled “In the Middle East, Time to Move On,” the paper stated that US President Barack Obama “made the right decision to give (peacemaking) a second try last summer” but said it had now become clear that the sides “are still unwilling to move on the core issues of the borders of a Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and guarantees for Israel’s security.”
In the current climate, the editorial reasoned, continued efforts were futile. It suggested that Washington outline its principles for a viable, lasting peace agreement — a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps; an agreement that Jerusalem will be the capital of both nations — and then redirect its foreign policy efforts to other pressing global issues, such as the ongoing military tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
While a peace deal was “essential for the security of both peoples,” the paper concluded, “To achieve one will require determined and courageous leaders and populations on both sides that demand an end to the occupation. Despite the commitment of the United States, there’s very little hope of that now.”
US envoy Martin Indyk was set to return to Israel on Tuesday in a fresh bid to save the failing peace process. According to Palestinian sources another round of talks-about-talks was expected on Tuesday or Wednesday evening.
Peace efforts suffered a new blow last week when Israel said it would freeze the transfer of duties it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority’s applications to join 15 UN and other international treaties in breach of previous understandings.
The monthly 80 million euros ($111 million) in taxes collected by Israel represents about two-thirds of the PA’s income.
Israel also reportedly plans to suspend its participation with the Palestinians in developing a gas field off the Gaza Strip and to put a cap on Palestinian deposits in its banks.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in a meeting with ambassadors posted in Tel Aviv on Sunday, blamed the Palestinians for the rapid deterioration in the peace process.
“We were very close to an agreement with the Palestinians, a complex transaction which was being examined by the (Israeli) cabinet, but at the last moment the Palestinians broke their promises and submitted applications” to join international treaties, he charged.
“We are ready to discuss and negotiate but we will not accept unilateral steps,” Lieberman said.
The talks hit an impasse two weeks ago when Israel refused to release a group of Palestinian prisoners, objecting to freeing Israeli Arabs in the group and seeking the PA’s pledge to continue peace talks beyond a current April 29 deadline. The Palestinians then moved to join the 15 international treaties and conventions.
AFP contributed to this report.