The first day of the New Year will mark the US press secretary John Kerry’s visit to Israeli and Palestinian lands to continue his shuffle diplomacy initiated in late July. These talks are aimed to obtaining a full status peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Though the results are unable to be described as tangible so far, the negotiations based on two-state solution, may put historic conclusion to one of the world’s most protracted conflicts.
With half of the time of the nine-month deadline already behind, the variety of voices is becoming more evident ranging from complete question that any peace is possible to great hopes put on Kerry’s mediation. The situation in core remains characterized with high inconsistency to which a recent episode in Israel policy is a great illustration.
On 30th of December Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners. This was a third out of four stages of 104 prisoners amnesty agreed between parties already in the beginning of the peace process. As declared by Kerry, this step is a great contribution to the mutual confidence of the parties. Yet this undoubtedly positive episode was parallel to the Israeli announcement of their plans to build more settlements on the land that Palestinians claim to be occupied.
While surely being far from contributing positively to the status of the negotiations, such announcements may be underlined by something else but solely Israeli desire to undermine the peace talks. Declaration of upcoming settlements construction became a typical practice of Israeli Prime Ministers involved in peace talks with Palestine. In current case, this can be perceived as a way for Netanyahu to balance the release of the prisoners in his attempt to calm the criticism from the more radical voices of the Israel Parliament (Knesset). It is also a way for Netanyahu to show to Palestinian side that though he is willing to concede, he is less determined to concede on the issues vitally important for Israel, without reciprocal steps.
Yet, apart from in the light of the Israel and Palestine conflict alone, it is important to analyze current peace talks also through the prism of vital US national interests. The analyses of the external conditions under which these talks are taking place award us with higher believes in the success of Kerry’s mediation.
With the Middle East caught in waves of protest, Israel, which has long been perceived as a core issueof the region, turned to be one of very few places, where the US can have a real influence and where the US has long ago established itself almost as an equal, internal actor. Unlike other hot spots of Middle East, here Kerry can actually have his diplomatic skills in use. Meantime, today, the victory of the US-led diplomacy in Middle East is extremely important for the United States to redefine its influence in the region. The US ability to heal the very heart of the Middle East will overshadow its involuntary silence and inaction in what concerns the brand-new challenges of the Middle East.
Such high stakes of the US is the best possible incentive for its unprecedented determination in a pursuit of success and stabilization. They also increase the chances of the US being at least relatively unbiased in the negotiations involving his historical friend. Many experts outlined the US lean towards the Israeli interests in attempts of mediation as one of the major determinants of past unsuccess. The recent incident with the Iran Nuclear Deal, involving the precedent of the US going in contrast with the Israeli claims and opinions in the implementation of their interests in Middle East, provide us with even more confidence.
With the US name, reputation and personal interests involved in this round of Israel-Palestine peace talks, the hopes that Kerry will find the ways to achieve the established peace framework are quite vibrant. However, it is important to acknowledge that in spite of the outcome of these peace talks, the very process of a round-table negotiations involving small mutual concessions made by Israel and Palestine – all contribute to the elimination of misbeliefand establishment of the mutual trust between the leaders and their communities that represent a crucially important precondition for any future stabilization and peace scenarios.
To what extent the involvement of the US national interests may stimulate the attempts to reach a full status agreement between Israel and Palestine?