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Hopes for Middle East Peace Fade as US Drops Settlement Freeze Demand

Unable to convince the Likudnik government, the US has dropped its call for a settlement freeze in the occupied territories, ending any plans for continued peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Direct talks brokered by Washington were relaunched in September but broke down over the issue of settlements built on captured land that Palestinians seek for a state.

“We reached the conclusion this is not the time to renew direct negotiation by renewing the moratorium,” a senior U.S. diplomat told reporters in Israel.

Palestinians have said they would not engage in any direct talks while Israelis build on territory seized in the 1967 Middle East War.

In Washington, officials said the United States was weighing a return to indirect talks following its failure to revive the direct negotiations.

If you thought it was impossible to negotiate with the hostage-takers in the Republican Party, try Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis would not agree to any settlement freeze in East Jerusalem, which they consider their territory. They would only extend the moratorium for 90 days, which isn’t enough time to get the seats warm at the negotiating table, let alone reach agreement. And for this 90-day moratorium, they wanted $3 billion in F-35 fighters for free. The US also wanted to focus the near-term negotiations on setting the borders for an eventual Palestinian state, and Israel objected to that.

I’d have cut bait too. The Netanyahu government remains disinterested in peace, though they appear quite interested in extortion. Without two partners for peace, you’re just throwing good F-35 fighters after bad. These negotiations never had a chance.

Israeli and Palestinian diplomats will head to Washington next week for consultation, but I can’t imagine what about. They may seek indirect talks. Mahmoud Abbas may have to dissolve his government now, and we will see growing calls for unilateral Palestinian statehood. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay recognized Palestine as a state last weekend, with the pre-1967 lines as borders.

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David Dayen

David Dayen