Adam Gonn
November 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Two months after the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations broke down, effort by the U. S. to restart them seems stumbling.

When Israel's 10-month freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank ended in September, so did the U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the two parties. The Palestinians insist that the negotiations can only be continued after settlement construction halts.

Ever since then there has been frenetic diplomatic activity in public and behind the scenes as the U.S. administration coax the parties to resume talks. Israel will receive some 20 F-35 fighter jets and additional unspecified military aid from Washington in exchange for a 90-day extension of the building freeze.

There has been speculation that the U.S. would make some kind of offer to the Palestinians as well, but Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, said Wednesday that the Palestinians "have not entered any kind of trade-off with the United States."

Analysts told Xinhua that the U.S. is hampered by the fact that there is very little tangible it can offer, but they disagree on whether this is based on U.S. weakness or on exaggerated demands.


Samir Awwad, a professor of international relations at Birzeit University in the West Bank, told Xinhua that the U.S. is losing its brokering power in the Middle East peace process.

"We can see that the U.S. is trying to buy influence on the Israeli side and the Israelis failed to refuse Washington's interference in the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts," he said, adding that the Palestinians don't hold U.S. intervention in high esteem anymore.

Much of the problem came down to the fact that there is very little, if anything, the Palestinians want the U.S. to deliver, said Awwad.

"Palestinians demanded things that will enable them to reach a peace agreement with Israel, which ultimately fall under the control of Israel, not the U.S. and not the international community," Awwad said.

The main demand by the Palestinians is to completely end the settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they see as their future capital.

The fact is that the U.S. pressure is not as effective as it used to be, said Awwad, adding what needs to be done is to enable international law to become effective, but this is something the U. S. can't do.

Asked if there was any possibility that the U.S. in the future might be able to return to a more influential position, Awwad said this was very unlikely as "all politics are local politics," even if the U.S. President Barack Obama would like to pursue a certain agenda in the Middle East, he still needs to consider such internal factors as the U.S. Congress and lobbyists.


Jamil Rabah, head of the Ramallah-based polling group Near East Consulting, told Xinhua that Palestinian faith in the U.S. as an honest and fair broker has never been high in the past bi-monthly polls, and the results showed a decline in the ability of Washington as a mediator.

"Most people believe that the Obama administration is less inclined to work against Israel," he said.

Rahab said that in the beginning of his presidency, Obama was viewed as more honest than his predecessors, but over the time, the number of people with this opinion has decreased. In the latest survey conducted two months ago, only 20 percent said the Obama administration was an honest broker.

Most Palestinians do not believe that Netanyahu is interested in peace, added Rahab.

Meanwhile, Some Israelis are also questioning their trust in their traditional ally.

Jontahan Rynhold from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at the Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, said the U.S. position is as strong as it always has been and the current administration is just following the line of previous ones over the last 20 years, during which Washington has always maintained that it cannot deliver peace to the parties and that they have to do so by themselves.

"What they are saying is very disingenuous," Rynhold said, " because for the first year, what the U.S. did was to ask things from Israel."

Regarding Washington's latest military-aid-for-freeze offer, Rynhold said that it had less to do with the regional situation, instead it followed the path of U.S. foreign policy under which Israel always has been rewarded for taking risks.


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