Israel tries to breathe life into peace talks

Israel is preparing a package of gestures designed to revive the peace negotiations with the Palestinians that have been frozen since work began on a contentious Jewish housing project at Har Homa in Arab East Jerusalem two months ago.

The measures are expected to include firm steps to building homes for Arabs in Israel's disputed capital and the restoration of residence rights in Jerusalem to hundreds of Palestinians who forfeited them by moving out of the city.

The Israelis are also considering a more flexible approach on various unfulfilled commitments made by the previous Labour government under the interim agreement. Among these are Palestinian air and sea ports in the Gaza Strip; a safe-passage road link between Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza; and access for Palestinian workers to jobs in Israel.

The Palestinians remain sceptical, however, about whether the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, can or will deliver. The Bar-On scandal over the dubious appointment of an underqualified lawyer to the post of Attorney-General has left him both weaker and more dependent on hardliners in his right- wing and religious coalition.

The Interior Ministry, a fiefdom of the Sephardi Shas party, is resisting the Prime Minister's attempt to stop it confiscating Jerusalem identity cards from Arabs who have moved either abroad or to the West Bank suburbs. And Mr Netanyahu himself is defying international pressure to stop building 6,500 Jewish homes on Har Homa.

The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, complained yesterday that the Israeli government was not interested in salvaging the peace process. Speaking to reporters on his return from talks in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, he accused Mr Netanyahu of continuing to violate signed agreements.

Mr Arafat is to meet Israel's figurehead president, Ezer Weizman, on the border between Israel and Gaza this evening, but neither side expects more than a gentle warming of the atmosphere. In a week of quickening diplomatic activity, Mr Netanyahu will also hold talks today with Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan, though again they are likely to have a marginal impact on the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio.

In the longer term, Israelis and Palestinians reluctantly acknowledge that their best hopes lie with the United States. Dennis Ross, President Bill Clinton's Middle East troubleshooter, returns to the region tomorrow. Under the new Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, Washington seems to have resigned itself to a more active role.

It has been pressing Mr Netanyahu to come up with confidence-building measures, and US officials are now expected to take part in all negotiating sessions. Previously, the Clinton administration had preferred to let the two sides solve their own problems, reserving its intervention for the final, critical stages.

This is clearly no longer enough. David Afek, the disenchanted head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry research department, went so far last week as to pronounce the peace process dead.

It will take all the skill and leverage the Americans can marshal to resurrect it.

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: Business Development Manager - South East & East Anglia

£60500 - £65500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Technician

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want the opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Worker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Workers needed in the Hastin...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Worker - Car / Bike / Moped Drivers

£7 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: NEW branch opening soon in Worthing fol...

Day In a Page

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
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent