Omer Othmani, Osama Radi
July 20, 2010 - 12:00am

RAMALLAH, July 19 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming two weeks would be decisive as the Palestinian leadership would hold a series of meetings to study the U.S. call for moving from the four-month proximity talks to direct talks with Israel, analysts said.

Palestinian observers also expect that the U.S. would increase its pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab states to promote the peace process.

Since the U.S.-sponsored proximity talks started in May, the Palestinians have been demanding Israel for a significant progress in the two issues of security and border and an Israeli announcement of full cessation of settlement before going to the direct talks, which Israel has rejected.

The U.S. wants the two sides to move to the direct negotiations before September 26, when Israel's announcement to temporarily freeze settlement in the West Bank for 10 months will be over. However, the Palestinians demand to make a progress in issues of security and border.


Khalil Shahin, a political analyst in the West Bank city of Ramallah told Xinhua that the U.S. is expected to increase its pressure on both the Palestinians and the Arab states to change their stances concerning the resumption of the direct talks.

"President Barack Obama's administration reached a conclusion that in the past few weeks, it failed to press the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote the peace process which would end up with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," said Shahin.

The U.S., which has been embarrassed as a mediator over the last two weeks, is trying to push the two sides to go for direct talks, which means that once they move to face-to-face talks, the U.S. won't keep intervening and will play a real mediator role in the process.

The choice, according to Shahin, would keep the Palestinians being the lamb, which would face the Israeli wolf. "Israel always acts to turn the unbalanced balance of power in its favor through its settlement expansion."


The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had asked the U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell during his last visit in the region for more clarifications concerning the Israeli position on the settlement expansion, the situation in Jerusalem as well as on the issues of border and security.

Right after his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week, Mitchell admitted that there are difficulties that obstruct the peace process. Such an announcement would increase the doubts that the U.S. efforts would succeed in achieving the demanded progress.

The U.S. has repeatedly announced that it is fully confident that the direct negotiations should resume as soon as possible to revive the Middle East peace process, which has been stalled since December 2008.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have been trading accusations since the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and Netanyahu government's decision to build more settlement units in East Jerusalem.


The PNA, which insists that it won't hold any talks with Israel unless the latter completely halts settlement activities, had decided to hold proximity talks with Israel under the U.S. pressure, although the Jewish state kept the expansion of settlement in East Jerusalem.

"The official Palestinian stance suffers weakness due to internal Palestinian feuds. Now the Palestinian side is seeking justifications to get back to the face-to-face negotiations and wants to be able to resist the U.S. pressure and the Israeli blackmail," said Shahin.

The Arab League (AL) peace process committee is due to convene in Cairo on July 29 to discuss moving from the proximity talks to direct talks. The committee had in March backed the U.S. proposal for holding four-month proximity talks with Israel.

The Central Council of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) will convene in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 5 to study the final Palestinian decision concerning the Middle East peace process and the fate of the negotiations with Israel.

Mekhemar Abu Se'da, the Gaza-based political science professor at Al-Azhar University, expected that the AL committee would respond to the U.S. pressure and would recommend the Palestinians to move to direct talks with Israel.

"I think that Israel would present oral commitments to extend the partial Israeli freeze of settlement in the West Bank and back the two-state solution to obtain a Palestinian and Arab commitment to move to direct talks. I don't think the U.S. would give the Palestinians any written commitment," said Abu Se'da.


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