Palestinian leaders have agreed to a further round of indirect negotiations with Israel, more than a year after the last attempt to reach a settlement broke down in December 2008.
The planned negotiations, which do not yet have a timetable, will be mediated by the U.S., and special envoy George Mitchell will travel between the two delegations. Direct talks are not envisaged at this stage.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization has set a four-month limit on the process, and its leaders have said they do not expect results from the renewed talks, which have been endorsed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Israel and the U.S.
In a recent development that has strained the peace talk proposals, yesterday Israel has approved the construction of 112 new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit. Israeli officials say the approval was granted before a 10-month moratorium on new construction in Jewish settlements within the disputed territory.
Israel has also approved plans to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem, an area not included in the moratorium but which the international community considers occupied territory.
This is how some commentators and bloggers have reacted to the renewed dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders:
From Tikum Olam, a liberal Jewish-American blog:
[A]las it’s all a charade. For all the “proximity” the two sides may have they are universes apart on virtually every major issue that divides them. No commentators I have noticed have remarked upon the fact that these talks are in fact a deep regression from previous rounds of talks which, during the Olmert government, were direct and without U.S. mediation. Those talks too were largely ineffectual. But at least the parties had enough trust in each other that they were willing to talk face to face.
From a Talking Points Memo blog:
Everybody knows the core issues between Israelis and Palestinians, except for the one that will matter the most and can be acted on immediately, before any comprehensive deal; the one where Israel’s concessions will not compromise its security but enhance it. I am speaking of Palestine’s economy, specifically, its private sector, the driver of civil society and spine of any future state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks about “economic peace,” but seems to mean little more than giving Palestinian laborers more jobs in Israeli agriculture and construction projects. What Palestinians need, rather, are entrepreneurs, managers, and professionals with the freedom to build a growing node in an urban and global network. The latter have made a remarkable start, but the occupation is thwarting them in ways few outsiders appreciate.
From Beneath the Surface, commentary on the peace talks:
Most people saw through Netanyahu’s peace bluff in June, but for those who believed the “outstretched” arm he supposedly gave the Palestinians, he just went against his campaign promises. Does Israel want peace with Palestine? By the decisions made the last couple of days it doesn’t seem like it, it seems like Israel want Palestine to surrender to their terms. Netanyahu has been given credit by vice-president Joe Biden for his indirect initiative to peace negotiations, but in reality the prerequisites that he laid aground for these negotiations were a joke!
From an opinion article in Haaretz, an Israeli center-left newspaper:
Israel must talk to Hamas. Not secretly. Not indirectly. Not for a politician to rehabilitate himself on the way to taking over the leadership of a party, as Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz tried to do, but openly and seriously. Just as the United States regularly talks to the Israeli opposition, Israel should maintain a dialogue with the Palestinian opposition. The dialogue should cover all core issues including a final settlement.
View footage of a checkpoint outside of the Beitar Illit settlement, which has a majority ultra-Orthodox Jewish population:
– James Matthews