Gulf News (Editorial)
January 4, 2012 - 1:00am

The importance of yesterday's renewed direct contact between the Palestinians and the Israelis should not be overplayed. As Saeeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said before the talks, "the meeting would not constitute the resumption of negotiations, but rather is one that could lead to the resumption of negotiations".

Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has shown little sign of any substantial change in its position, which has been to dismiss any talks as outside its plans for a greater Israel, and to continue to build and reinforce illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank.

It has been over a year since the two sides met, during which time the Palestinians launched their bid to have their statehood recognised by the United Nations. This infuriated the Israelis and the Palestinian application has been sidelined by Israel's friends in US President Barack Obama's administration, who have also been part of making sure that Obama has refused to face down Israel over its illegal and continuing occupation of the West Bank.

This background gives little reason for any optimism from the attendance of the Middle East Quartet at yesterday's talks. Representatives from the US, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia were all at the talks, but their contribution was as feeble and irrelevant as the Quartet's contribution has been in the past few years.

Nonetheless, the Palestinian side has its own problems, as the seven-month old reconciliation plan between Fatah and Hamas has not yet led to any material change. Hamas still runs Gaza and Fatah still manages the West Bank, and the Palestinian National Authority and parliament have continued without the required elections, depriving themselves of any lingering democratic mandate as years pass without any reference to the Palestinian people. The Palestinian parties need to come together into one government, so as to speak effectively for their people.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017