While a growing number of influential voices here and in the region insist that the nearly 20-year, U.S.-sponsored “peace process” has reached its terminal phase, the administration of President Barack Obama remains committed to reviving direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
“…[M]oving forward, we want to see progress on the peace talks,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner has emphasized repeatedly over the last two weeks, which have seen Washington’s special envoy David Hale shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
“We want to see the two parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, get back into direct negotiations. And that’s where are our focus remains,” he said.
But there is little reason at this point to believe that Washington’s efforts will bear fruit.
That conclusion was reinforced here Wednesday night by none other than one of the process’s strongest Palestinian advocates. In a speech at the annual gala of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad indicated no great eagerness on the part of his regime to resume talks with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Our own assessment is that the conditions are not ripe at this juncture for a meaningful resumption of talks,” Fayyad told the upper-crust crowd.
That has been the standard line of the Palestinians who broke off talks 13 months ago when Netanyahu rejected a U.S. offer of substantially more military aid, as well as a host of mostly security-related guarantees, if his government agreed to extend a partial moratorium on building or expanding settlements on Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
That line has, if anything, grown firmer, particularly in the wake of last month’s formal application to the U.N. Security Council by PA ...