Mideast Chaos Lends Urgency to John Kerry's Peace Push

With Syria and Egypt Ablaze, Window for Progress

Troubled Neighborhood: The U.S. pushed both sides to come to the peace table in part because of widening chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.
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Troubled Neighborhood: The U.S. pushed both sides to come to the peace table in part because of widening chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.

By Ron Kampeas

Published July 31, 2013.
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Kerry did not specify which issues are considered “core.” They would have to include not only the borders of a Palestinian state but also the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees — issues that scuttled the 2000 Camp David talks.

Since the 2000 talks, the conventional wisdom has been to first address borders and only then proceed to the more intractable parts of the conflict.

But the clock is ticking loud enough that it appears to have roused Israeli and Palestinian leaders who had not given an inch since October 2010, when the last round of talks stopped.

“Our ability to impact the internal situation in Egypt or in Syria is very limited, but we can potentially impact our relationship with the Palestinians in a way that will increase stability in at least part of our region and perhaps better enable us to cope with the turmoil occurring elsewhere,” said Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington.

To get the latest round of talks started, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave up his insistent demand that Israel reinstate a settlement freeze prior to negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release 104 Palestinians imprisoned for violent acts dating to before the launch of the 1993 Oslo process.

Netanyahu could make such a move in part because he is secure in his government and has the backing of Israelis who for years have told pollsters that they would accept the terms of a final-status agreement negotiated by their government, said Peter Medding, an emeritus professor of political science at Hebrew University.

“He does not have anyone ready to jump ship, not at this stage,” Medding said. “There’s a clear warning sign for people to the right of him who feel he’s betraying the settlers, but who feel if he they jump out, he has the Labor party supporting him from the opposition.

“Those who are unhappy with what he is doing don’t have much of an option.”


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