Israel’s intentions are always doubted when it comes to peace talks.
So is the case this time around as well. Hardly 48 hours before it was scheduled to resume long-stalled direct talks with the Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Jewish state has thrown a spanner in the works. Its decision to build 1,000 new settlement units on the disputed territory has almost torpedoed the progress that was attained in Washington a fortnight ago. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal intervention had enabled both the Palestinians and the Israeli delegations under Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, respectively, to agree for talks, and its first episode at the US State Department was a huge success. But now this new arm-twisting tactic of Tel Aviv is not without purpose, and its real motives could once again derail the peace talks.
The Palestinians were already quite skeptical and had made it a precondition for talks to dismantle all settlements on the occupied territories. The expansionist policy meant to accommodate more and more Jews on encroached lands after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war is illegal under the canons of international law, but Tel Aviv had been unmoved at the behest of Washington’s support. The news that the Israeli authorities have given approval for new settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem has angered senior Palestinian leaders and likewise prompted condemnation from the international community.
The hard-earned trust seems to have been undermined with this new ploy, and it is very unlikely that Palestinian side will be in a comfortable position as they meet on Wednesday. It is little known whether the new approval for settlements enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had strived hard to seek an endorsement from his cabinet for the release of prisoners and getting back to the table, or the same has just been pushed down the administrative side by unscrupulous elements.