Recent developments in Kerry’s Shuttle Diplomacy
US Secretary of State John Kerry calls the proposal to revive peace talks between Israel and Palestine “a very big step forward”. This comes a day after a Qatar-led delegation of Arab states presents a revived Arab Peace Initiative that, for the first time, eased the demand that Israel return to its pre-1967 boundaries. However initial response suggests that the years-long stalemate in progress will be difficult to overcome. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s responds by stating that any eventual peace agreement would be put to a referendum, with Palestinians not opposed to the idea either.
Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, arrives in Beijing to seek support from Chinese leaders, followed by Netanyahu a few days later. Abbas wants China to “use its relationship with Israel to remove the obstacles that obstruct the Palestinian economy”.
Kerry holds separate talks with Israel and Palestine, on his fourth visit to Israel in as many months. There is scepticism over progress as no breakthrough is reached.
At the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in Jordan, Kerry announces plans to raise $4bn in investment for Palestine; but dependent on progress towards peace. The plan is to, over three years, increase Palestinian GDP by 50%, increase wages by 40% and reduce unemployment by two thirds. Kerry believes the plan is “enormously powerful in shaping the possibilities of the future”.
After Kerry meets with Israeli and Palestinian leadership once more, there is no major breakthrough towards the agreement of peace talks. However Kerry claims that gaps had been narrowed and that he would return for more peace talks soon.
Kerry returns to the Middle East to hold secret meetings with officials from regional Arab nations that he believes could be crucial in resuming Israel-Palestine peace talks.
In a meeting with the PLO executive committee in Ramallah, talks break down between Kerry and Palestinian leadership. Palestinians brand Kerry’s peace proposal as insufficient as it stipulates neither an end to settlement building in the West Bank nor insists that Israel’s 1967 borders with minor adjustments will be preconditions for peace. Palestinian leaders call on Israel to agree a general border of a future Palestinian state before direct negotiations continue.
Whilst in Jordan, Kerry announces that direct peace talks may resume after an almost three-year stalemate. He states that an agreement has been reached that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
Netanyahu calls resumption of peace talks with Palestine “a vital and strategic interest”. He claims negotiations are not only important to end the Palestinian conflict but also in light of Iran’s nuclear threat at the neighbouring Syrian civil war. This is spoken after earlier promises to release a limited amount of Palestinian prisoners, including “heavyweight” political prisoners that have been incarcerated for up to 30 years.
Netanyahu, in his weekly address, reiterates promise that any eventual peace deal would be put to a referendum. He says this is needed to “prevent a rift among the people”.
By ICSR Research Intern David Franklin