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Harnessing Mideast peace

Filed on March 6, 2014

Taking time out of the hype that engulfs White House these days over the crisis in Crimea, US President Barack Obama warned Israel that failure of peace talks would be intolerable.

Obama told the Bloomberg news agency ahead of his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that ‘it’s time to seize the moment”. The State Department-sponsored talks, in which Secretary of State John Kerry has personally staked his claim, should conclude on a positive note before April 29, and as per the roadmap of parleys, the consensus will go a long way in working for a two-state solution. Kerry had undertaken more than eight visits to the region since assuming the top diplomatic office. But the fact is that not much territory has been covered by either side and the contentious issues are still pending on the table. While the delaying tactics and bottlenecks are all on the part of the Jewish state, which is why Obama warned Netanyahu of “international fallout” if it does not endorse a US framework for a peace deal with the Palestinians.

It remains to be seen how Netanyahu reacts to Obama’s firm words, and it is very likely that he will play to the gallery even this time around. The release of Palestinian prisoners, which Netanyahu personally got it cleared from his hawkish cabinet, and the uneasy peace prevailing in West Bank and Gaza are, nonetheless, indicators that some headway has been made in fomenting a plan of action to lure the Palestinians since the talks resumed in July after a three-year hiatus. The core issues such as displacement of Arab and Jewish citizens, border demarcation and resources distribution are yet to be sorted out; and the difference of opinion seems to be too wide to bridge. The good point, however, is that there is an unsaid consensus to go back to the pre-1967 borders, and this is where the international community and, especially, the regional players are banking there hopes on an amicable solution.

The issues that should instantly come up for discussion and that too with an agreed solution are the status of Jerusalem, the diaspora issue and last but not the least putting an end to settlements.

Given to understand that Obama and Netanyahu have a serious personality rift, and the latter had defied all calls for reconciliation, it will be a difficult task for the US president to make the Israeli leader fall in line. Obama has already raised political stakes for Netanyahu by saying that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is “sincere about his willingness to recognise Israel and its right to exist”. This largesse on the part of the Palestinian leader should be more than enough for Tel Aviv to trade land for peace, and seal a deal that will come to stabilise the volatile Middle East region. Diplomacy stands a chance to succeed provided preconditions are done away with.





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