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

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick