Israel-Palestine talks slow but vital

By Joe hung

The stage has been all set for the second round of Israel-Palestine peace talks to get under way in Israel or the West Bank before this week ends at the earliest.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would convene again to work out a comprehensive peace agreement within nine months that would lead to an independent Palestinian state. Washington was compelled to force Israel and Palestine to negotiate peace after it had failed to prevent the U.N. General Assembly from granting non-member observer status to the Palestine Authority, which was diametrically opposed by Israel. In making Palestine a U.N. observer, the General Assembly urged that peace negotiations be started to find a permanent “two-state” solution in Palestine, which was partitioned in 1948 to create the state of Israel. Kerry said the purpose of the new round of peace negotiations is to achieve a final status agreement that will make Israel and Palestine the “two states living side by side in peace and security.” That’s a tall order, a mission impossible to achieve in the foreseeable future. As a matter of fact, this round of peace negotiations is the fourth — and will not be the last — round to work out a solution to the problem of two states living in peace and security. The first round of negotiations took place in 2001-01 between Yasir Arafat and Ehud Barak at Camp David. Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Authority met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the second round, and the third round of talks in 2010-11 at the urging of President Barack Obama failed to solve the problem of Palestine. And that’s why it is widely perceived in the Middle East that President Obama has been detached from the peacemaking effort and that the latest initiative is largely due to Kerry’s effort. The success of peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel hinges on the future of Jerusalem, the home of the three Judeo-Christian faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jerusalem was occupied by the Arab Legion of King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan in the first Arab-Israeli War of 1949. Abdullah took the West Bank of the River Jordan along with Jerusalem and annexed it to create the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. But Israel took over Jerusalem together with the rest of the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu now claims Jerusalem as its capital and as the heart of the Jewish nation that can never be divided. Abbas vows there can be no agreement with Natanyahu and no end to the conflict between Palestine and Israel without a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the last remnants of the Jews’ Second Temple and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.