New Castle News


April 9, 2014

Our Opinion: America may abandon Mideast peace efforts

NEW CASTLE — President Obama may join other American chief executives in coming up short on achieving a Middle East peace.

The State Department is sending signals that it may abandon current efforts to negotiate a key agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The goal had been to hammer out a framework deal by the end of this month. Instead, the two sides are accusing each other of abandoning good-faith steps designed to encourage an accord, and the talks are in danger of falling apart.

The Palestinians accuse the Israelis of canceling an agreed-to prisoner release. Israel says it did so because the Palestinians are pursuing membership in various U.N. agencies, effectively acting as an independent state, contrary to Israeli views.

And then there is the issue of Israeli settlements and various disputes related to them in Palestinian areas. Obviously, the Palestinians object to them, and even when the Israeli government seeks to limit settlement activities — as is occurring this week — the efforts are muddled.

But the specifics in all of this are somewhat beside the point. It seems as if the Israelis and Palestinians always find reasons (or excuses) for avoiding a meaningful agreement. We can appreciate there are sharp differences between the two, along with years of mutual distrust and suspicion. However, a future without this sort of animosity and instability has obvious advantages.

So the United States, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, has been pursuing intensive efforts designed to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, there is little indication that is going to happen.

Now Kerry is sending signals that he and other U.S. officials are ready to walk away from the talks, citing problems created by both sides.

We suspect this is, at least in part, a tactic designed to get the two sides to rethink their positions and work toward an agreement. Perhaps it will work, but history does not appear to be on Kerry’s side.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has gobbled up the time and energies of a variety of administrations. And the successes have been far outnumbered by the failures. While it’s a positive that talks are taking place and violence is controlled (at least for the most part), it’s a situation that can fall apart quickly.

We can understand Kerry’s frustration with the situation. Yet diplomacy is frequently a frustrating process. And it’s unrealistic to expect that goals will be achieved in a straight line or an efficient process.

Still, at some point, there comes a time to scale back diplomatic efforts, because the parties involved are unprepared to bargain effectively. If the Obama administration concludes that’s the case with Israel and the Palestinians, we’re sure there are other concerns in the world that can take up America’s time.

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