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The day the Mideast peace process stalled

For the two major stakeholders in the peace process the Palestinians and the Americans, the scene is really depressing

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

The Palestinians’ recent decision to seek membership in several U.N. agencies is an indication that their U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Israelis have reached another deadlock, full stop.

The Palestinian leadership has unanimously approved a decision to seek membership of 15 U.N. agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention in certainly bad news to the Americans with whom the Palestinians have agreed to refrain from seeking membership of international bodies and from pursuing legal action against Israel during the nine months of talks that the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry launched in July last year.

The sudden yet expected unilateral move was publicly announced by President Mahmoud Abbas on television after he signed the request following a meeting at the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ramallah headquarters at the time Kerry was in Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Message of dismay

Despite his “euphemistic” statement that “this not a move against America,” Abbas certainly has meant to deliver a message of frustration and dismay to Kerry over the lack of any progress in the pace talks. The latter has received the message anyway and canceled his planned meeting with the PA chief.

For the two major stakeholders in the peace process the Palestinians and the Americans, the scene is really depressing. By signing the request to join the several U.N. agencies, the Palestinians are seen as breaching the conditions of the peace talks with Kerry responding to the move by canceling his meeting with Abbas in a clear sign of Washington’s displeasure and dismay at the Palestinian move.

Frustrating

The scene in the Israeli side is more depressing and frustrating. In return to the Palestinians’ approval to halt their request of membership in U.S. agencies, the Israelis have agreed to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners but Israel has refused to release the final batch of 26 prisoners, among them Fateh leader Marwan Barghouti.

For the two major stakeholders in the peace process the Palestinians and the Americans, the scene is really depressing

Raed Omari

Definitely in a “tit-for-tat” move against the Palestinian request to join several U.N. agencies, which contained an implied threat to sue Israeli in international courts for its illegal settlement expansion, the Israelis have reissued tenders for hundreds of settler homes in east Jerusalem’s settlement neighborhood of Gilo.

The Palestinians have long threatened to resume their action through international courts and the U.N. bodies over Israel’s continued settlement constructions in the West Bank and the annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Many observers see in the Palestinians’ move as plan B against the failed peace talks but, at least for myself, it is an expression of frustration over the deadlocked round of negotiations and probably over future re-launched rounds. How and where can the Palestinians resume their action against Israeli at international courts while Israel is not yet a member of the International Criminal Court?

So, with this gloomy scene, one would conclude that the peace negotiations have officially reached another deadlock opposite to what many observers see as a “setback” in the months-long peace talks, citing the remaining 25 days ahead of the April 29 deadline.

Frustration over the on-again, off-again peace talks was expressed by Kerry himself who has been quoted very recently as still admitting a gap between the two sides even after almost nine months on non-stop peace efforts. “ You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions to compromise.”

Deadlock

Though the “deadlock” is now the established and unquestionable fate of the peace talks, this is not the major issue anyway inasmuch as it is the future of the peace process in general.

Critics have longed used the word “deadlock” to describe the frequent failure in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks in a sort of diplomatic euphemism to avoid the use of the word “dead” though it is of more suitable connotations to the peace reality.

The Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations have been termed as a “process” – a word that entails collaboration and coordination between the two sides – but in almost all cases, this joint endeavor has ended with the Israelis taking unilateral measures that alter any progress before it is being achieved. But, let’s put such an argument aside anyway.

Kerry was supposed and hoped to come up with a framework agreement on the Middle East peace and not a peace deal but even such a “humble” outcome has not been achieved and proved to be also a far-reaching goal even after the hectic diplomatic effort the U.S. top diplomat has made.

Zero progress

In addition, the complete lack of progress achieved in the peace process even after nine months of unprecedented diplomatic effort exerted and still being exerted by Kerry makes one wonder about the nature and amount of diplomatic work that needs to be done push the peace process forward.

Now who is to blame for this round’s deadlock? It is the Israelis as always.

The Palestinians have set no preconditions to resume their peace talks with the Israelis and have showed goodwill intentions during the talks. Kerry, on the other side, has been exerting hectic diplomatic efforts to help establish common grounds upon which a lasting peace deal can rest amidst news about his country offering to release Jonathan Pollard, now in his 29th year in an American jail for charges of spying for Israel, in a bid to save the talks. All of that was received by the Israelis with a stubborn stance on the ‘Jewish state’ demand and with more tenders for hundreds of settler homes in the Palestinian territories.

To join this pessimistic and frustrating peace atmosphere, I now strongly agree with one of the pundits in the Arab-Israeli conflict who once described the peace process to me as “two people competing for a slice of pizza that is already eaten by one of them.”

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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.