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

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A long way to go before we reach Dave Eggers's digital dystopia

Memphis Barker
 

August catch-up: dress to impress, words to use more often, and the end of the internet

John Rentoul
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis