Deadlock remains as Middle East talks break up

THE ARAB-ISRAELI peace talks adjourned after four weeks yesterday, with both sides struggling to point to any substantial evidence of progress.

Even the prospect of an early breakthough in Israeli-Syrian relations, with an outline agreement on a deal over the Golan Heights, looked bleaker at the end of the talks than it had midway through.

All sides agreed to reconvene in Washington in mid-October. But, as the negotiators left Washington almost empty-handed, it was already clear that major political decisions must now be taken in Jerusalem and in Arab capitals if the hopes of a breakthrough, which followed the election of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in June, are to be realised soon.

Progress on the Palestinian front was most disappointing. A landmark move towards self-rule, starting with elections in the West Bank and Gaza, was the prime goal of the Washington meetings, and it had been hoped that the talks would end with an announcement, at the very least, of a date for the elections.

Instead, the two sides adjourned without even starting to resolve the question of what powers the electoral body should have. The talks became impaled on the seemingly insoluble division between Israel's refusal to give any ground which might appear to be a concession on sovereignty, and the Palestinians' insistence on a real transfer of power.

While the Palestinian talks floundered early in the proceedings, hopes were raised that warmer relations between Syria and Israel could bring unexpectedly sudden progress here. Israel conceded early on in the talks that it could discuss returning part of the Golan Heights in return for a full peace treaty, including full diplomatic relations and open borders, with Syria. Syria appeared to respond positively at first, presenting its own proposals for a deal. However, predictably, Syria continued to insist on total withdrawal before any discussion of a peace treaty: a demand which - equally predictably - Israel could not contemplate.

But it is unfair to judge the significance of the Washington talks purely on the lack of concrete results at the negotiating table.

Whatever the problems faced by the negotiators, these meetings did constitute the first meaningful attempt by all sides to talk about peace since the start of the Middle East conflict. As such they were used by respective governments as a means to test - and, perhaps, to begin to turn - entrenched public opinion at home.

Because these talks were potentially for real, all leaders involved were heavily constrained by the likely effect of any move on their own constituencies. Before the next round of talks all leaders involved will be taking the temperature of their own streets to see just how much further they could move next time.

The conventional wisdom is that the Palestinians would like to reach agreement while the Republican administration - which is deemed to be tougher on Israel than the Democrats - is still in power in the United States. The Israelis are rumoured to be willing to hold back from any big concessions in case the Democrats come in.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones