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Biden's Middle-East Peace Talks Off to Rocky Start

Israel approves settlements as Biden is en route

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Vice President Joe Biden travels to Israel Monday to discuss the Israel-Palestine peace process. But Israeli leaders are throwing Biden a curve ball, reversing Israel's freeze on growth in the highly contentious settlements. Israel had earlier acquiesced to international pressure to halt the growth of Israeli settlements in Palestinian regions. What will this development mean for the difficult peace process, and for the sometimes tense relationship between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian authority?

  • Doesn't Look Good The New York Times' Ethan Bronner writes that U.S. attempts at peace "have generated only the faintest enthusiasm here. Israeli and Palestinian leaders are skeptical that the other side will really accept a two-state solution. In addition, the contours and powers of a future Palestinian state are in sharp dispute." Bronner writes that settlements could be a major stumbling block. "There are 500,000 Israeli Jews living on land the Palestinians want as part of their state. Even if much of the land they are on were granted to Israeli annexation in exchange for territory for the Palestinians, there would still be a need to relocate tens of thousands of settlers."
  • Israel's Settlements Problem The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg reflects. "It is undeniably true that Jewish fundamentalists wield disproportionate power in Israeli decision-making; it is true that a small minority -- fundamentalist settlers -- has kept Israel entangled in the lives of the Palestinians on the West Bank; it is true that, because of the power of the Orthodox rabbinate, it is easier in some ways to be Jewish in America than in the Jewish state (Just ask women who try to pray at the Western Wall.) All this is not to say that Israel isn't still the most enlightened democracy in the Middle East, but there's not much of a competition."
  • Israel's Message to U.S. Liberal blogger Joe Sudbay translates, "I'm no expert on the Middle East, but it sure looks like the Israeli government trying to send the U.S. a signal. From the pool report, we were told Biden's plane left for Jerusalem at 8:30 PM EST and arrived at 4:08 Israeli time (seven hours ahead of EST.) So, the Israel government made this announcement while the Veep was on his way."
  • Obama Should Push Israel The Guardian's Olivia Hampton writes, "Arab capitals were buoyed when Obama initially dared confront Israel over settlements. But when pressure mounted in Washington and around the country against harming US relations with Israel, the president quickly backed down and made amends - somewhat - with hawkish Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu."
  • Don't Lose Urgency of Peace Talks Former Israel Foreign Affaors Minister Tzipi Livni tells Foreign Policy, "We have no time -- time works against us. The conflict can be transferred from a national conflict to a religious one, which is unsolvable, and this is something that we cannot afford." She says the U.S. and Israel have a mutual interest in resolving the conflict, and that Israel and Palestine have a mutual interest in a two-state solution, but that all sides must move quickly.
  • Hopeless Commentary's Rick Richman writes, "the chances for success in the foreseeable future are virtually nil." He argues that the Palestinian leadership "does not have the ability or authority to negotiate a peace agreement, much less implement one."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.