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Kerry faces obstacles in bid to restart Israeli- Palestinian peace process

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-4-5 9:45:39

US Secretary of State John Kerry is set for a bumpy ride in his upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories aiming to revive the peace process stalled for more than two years.

While Washington termed Kerry's third tour to the Middle East in a month as a "listening trip," Israeli and US media suggest the US top diplomat will try to find ways to rebuild confidence for both sides in resuming the peace talks.

One such measure Kerry could employ is to persuade Israel to release some Palestinians it held in prisons and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to drop its bid to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court.

However, Israeli analysts believe if he wants to make real progress, Kerry have either to convince PNA to quit demanding Israel reinstate a freeze on its settlement construction in the West Bank, which it did for 10 months in about four years ago, or to get Israel to renew the freeze. Whichever option he chooses, he will face a trick task.

Joshua Teitelbaum, a professor at Bar-Ilan University, told Xinhua that it is very unlikely that the current Israeli government would agree to impose a new settlement freeze.

Teitelbaum pointed to the inclusion of the right-wing and pro- settler HaBayit HaYehudi (the Jewish Home) party into Israel's ruling coalition, noting that the group may exert influence to prevent such a freeze from being implemented.

"It's very hard for me to think that there could be any progress on that, particularly considering the previous freeze did not move anything forward," Teitelbaum said.

He said during the 2009-2010 freeze, the two sides did not hold meetings in the first nine months and when they finally meet, their talks were not to the point.

However, analysts think Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not give up pressing Israel to end its settlement activities on the West Bank.

"Abbas would put the settlement issue on the table in addition to other issues regarding Israel's occupation of the Palestinian land and the Palestinian refugees," Mohammed Dajani, a professor at Al-Quds University said.

In addition, Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, is against any form of contacts with Israel and there has been some speculations that Hamas might be trying to convince Palestinians on the West Bank to take to the streets so that Abbas will not go too close to Israel.

At any rate, Dajani think a third party mediation will be conducive to the peace process. "It's important that there should be some third-party intervention, particularly the United States, so both Israelis and Palestinians will take this issue seriously and try to do what they have to do in order to promote the peace process."
Posted in: Mid-East