As the deadline for the latest attempt at a Middle East peace deal looms, the chances of success are sadly slim

There is no sign of progress, nor even of goodwill gestures to justify optimism

Share

Unless the American President involves himself directly in proceedings, the accumulated wisdom of more than six decades of would-be Middle Eastern peacemaking holds that no deal can ever be struck. With his meeting on Monday with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the similar exercise planned in a fortnight’s time with the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama is now doing precisely that. But, like his predecessors, he is pushing at a door that seems forever locked.

For more than a year, Secretary of State John Kerry has been pressing for a new peace initiative. The idea this time is for a “framework” agreement between the sides, to be reached by the end of April. Under this approach – whose practical difference from “road maps” and other previous diplomatic formulations is not entirely clear – Israelis and Palestinians would agree on the broad goals of a final two-state settlement. The fine print would be worked out later, away from the glare of the media spotlight.

But as the deadline approaches, there is no sign of progress, nor even of goodwill gestures to justify a little optimism. In his remarks at the White House, echoed in his speech yesterday to the pro-Israel lobby group Aipac, Mr Netanyahu predictably blamed the Palestinians, and their refusal to recognise Israel as the legitimate nation-state of the Jewish people. Mr Abbas, when he visits the White House on 17 March, will be asking Mr Obama how he can be expected to make concessions when Israeli  settlement-building on the West Bank, the Palestinians’ constant grievance, only grows. Figures this week show that such activity, far from diminishing, is now at a 13-year high.

Mr Obama, like previous US presidents, again warned Mr Netanyahu that time was running out. He pointed to the likelihood of “international fallout” – further boycotts, that is – against Israel if this new initiative failed, that the US could be powerless to stave off. But the Israeli Prime Minister appears unmoved.

In the meantime, a familiar stumbling block remains and a new complication has emerged. The former is Iran’s nuclear programme, over which Israel and the US are as divided as ever. Mr Netanyahu sees Tehran’s seemingly more moderate stance as a cynical charm offensive, and remains utterly opposed to November’s interim deal between Iran and the West – in his words “a historic mistake” that could threaten Israel’s very existence

The new potential obstacle is the crisis in Ukraine. Middle East peacemaking and Russia’s seizure of Crimea might seem unrelated. They are not. Confrontation with the West merely increases the likelihood that Russia will become more obstructive, both in its support for President Assad and in the search for a long-term nuclear deal with Tehran. Neither development would make Mr Netanyahu more amenable to a two-state settlement with the Palestinians.

There is one final item of accumulated wisdom about Middle East peacemaking. Only the US, it is said, can exert effective pressure on Israel. But the last thing Mr Obama wants, as he takes on Vladimir Putin, is an additional quarrel with a close ally like Israel. One wishes Mr Kerry well. But his chances of succeeding where all before him have failed look dim, indeed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most