Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, November 2013
Israel Ups the Ante in Jerusalem as Peace Talks Reach Dead-End
By Khalid Amayreh
PIC, Al-Jazeerah, November 11, 2013
Israel ups the ante in Jerusalem as peace talks reach dead-end [ 05/11/2013 - 05:34 PM ] By Khalid Amayreh
Taking advantage of the ongoing turmoil in the Arab world, Israel has introduced another potentially lethal hurdle to the already moribund peace process with the Palestinians by tabling a draft law in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset that would formally allow Jews to pray at the Al-Aqsda Courts.
The move, Palestinian argue, is a step toward the seizure of the holy shrine, exclusively Islamic since the Muslim conquest of Palestine more than 14 centuries ago.
The Israeli Knesset, dominated by Talmdic-minded and other hard-line millenarian Jews witnessed acrimonious discussion Monday as lawmakers made inflammatory calls, urging the Israeli government to "partition" the Islamic sanctuary between "Arabs and Jews."
The provocative discussion prompted Arab Knesset members to leave the plenum, warning that Jewish fanatics were playing with fire.
"You are playing with fire, you are turning the entire Middle East into a tinder box," said Arab MK Ahmed Teibi, as he left the Knesset hall.
"He who plays with fire will have his fingers burned."
Observers in Occupied Palestine argue that no other provocation has the potential of "turning things upside down in the region."
"I don't imagine any other issue having the potential of mobilizing and galvanizing the Arab and Muslim streets and, of course, the Palestinian street," said Hani al-Masri, a prominent political analyst based in Ramallah.
"If the Aqsa Mosque won't move the people, what will?"
The latest Israeli provocation comes at a time when peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) reached a virtual deadlock.
The Hebrew press has revealed that very few subjects were discussed in talks in the past three months.
According to Yesdeot Ahronot, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met 15 times in the past three months. Meetings were held alternately in different locations in Jerusalem and Jericho, and lasted on average between three and four hours.
In terms of borders, the Palestinians proposed reverting to the 1967 lines with land swaps. Israel's starting point was to mark the Palestinian state's borders within the wall outline, with the Israeli domination in the Jordan valley remaining intact..
Israel also proposed adding the colonies of Beit-El, Psagot and Nokdim to the settlement blocs that would remain under Israeli sovereignty.
The paramount issue of Jerusalem will be discussed separately.
PA president Mahmoud Abbas told a Fatah consultative body in Ramallah on Monday that "there has been no progress in the talks with Israel." Abbas also warned that the continuing stalemate was creating an incendiary situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
He added that the Ramallah leadership would contact "international organizations", including the UN Security Council, in the hope that these entities would exert pressure on Israel to end its decades-old occupation of Palestinian land.
Last week, it was rumored that Palestinian negotiators submitted their collective resignation to Abbas over what was termed as "Israeli intransigence and lack of seriousness in the talk."
Palestinian and Israeli officials had pledged to refrain from leaking any news about the ongoing talks to the media.
However, one PA official who is close to the talks and who is briefed regularly by the negotiators themselves accused Israel of "reneging on all agreements and understandings reached by both sides since the conclusion of the Oslo Agreement."
"Israel is not treating us as an equal peace partner, they are dealing with us as a vanquished supplicant, very much like a beggar, who has no rights and who should settle for whatever Israel chooses to give away to him."
As to the American role, the PLO official lashed out at the Americans, describing the US as "the mother of all trouble."
"The Americans are Israel's enabler, bankroller, and guardian-ally. The Americans are playing the role of a judge who tells a rapist and his victim to sort it out among them."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was supposed to meet with Palestinian and Israeli officials Tuesday in an effort to save the talks from what appears to be an imminent collapse.
Kerry and other American officials reportedly have hinted that the U.S. will make "final bridging proposals" in order to save the talks and prevent the two sides from returning to square one.
The Palestinian leadership interprets the reported American proposals as a euphemism for imposing a solution, especially on the weaker side, the Palestinians.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia this week, Kerry denied that his country would impose a solution on the Palestinians and Israelis.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government is doing all it can to frustrate the PA, ostensibly in the hope of prompting it to quit the talks.
Indeed, in addition to the latest provocations pertaining to the Aqsa Mosque, Israel has announced plans to demolish dozens of Arab buildings in East Jerusalem, which would render more than 16,000 Arabs homeless. Israel also announced this week that it would build 3500 other settler units in the Jerusalem area.
The latest scheme has been described as the most "ambitious act of ethnic cleansing" against the Palestinians since 1967.
Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said this week Israel would build a huge wall along the Jordan River. Pundits, both Arabs and Jews, interpret Netanyahu's announcement as reflecting both disinterest in and hopelessness about peace with the Palestinians.
According to a latest opinion poll, 60% of Palestinians said they expected an intifada or uprising to erupt if current peace talks reached a dead-end.
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