Prospects For Peace Process Dim Ahead Of Obama’s Middle East Trip

Then-Senator Barack Obama visits Israel in 2008

President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel and the West Bank — his first during his time in the White House — will draw attention to a peace process that is currently going nowhere.

CAP’s Matthew Duss, who is currently in the region, is concerned that despite calls on all side for a new round of talks between Israel and Palestine, direct negotiations may wind up being counter-productive:

While the Obama administration and its partners in the Quartet on the Middle East—the group made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia, established in 2002—have stressed the importance of returning to direct talks over the past few years, some analysts I spoke with suggested that this may not be a good option at the moment. Given the level of frustration among Palestinians at their own government’s failure to deliver, it’s possible that the Palestinian Authority could not survive another round of failed negotiations.

In the near-term absence of further negotiations, Duss recommended the United States working quietly to address key issues to boost the Palestinian Authority’s credibility, including Palestinian prisoners in Israel and the on-going construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “It’s very important, however, that the Palestinian Authority not be supported simply with the aim of prolonging an unsustainable status quo,” Duss warns, noting the necessity of a permanent solution.

The last direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority last took place in 2010, with the declared goal of developing a framework for an agreement within a year. The talks fell apart in late Sept. 2010, when Israel’s partial moratorium of new settlement construction expired.

President Obama’s trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan will start next Wednesday and last until Saturday. While he is not expected to make any major policy announcements while there, his very presence is thought as an assist in revitalizing the peace process. According to Israel’s Channel 2, Secretary of State John Kerry will make a return trip to the region soon after Obama’s as part of a more substantive effort.