The new Israel-Palestinian peace talks are just that, US officials insist – bilateral talks between the two parties. But the US will have an important role in prodding both sides toward compromise.
As relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks shift from Washington back to the region, a crucial factor will be the degree of US participation – how much American arm-twisting, and by whom – in what are to be bilateral negotiations between the two parties.
With Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat at his side, Secretary of State John Kerry announced at the State Department Tuesday that all of the so-called final-status issues that stand in the way of settlement of the decades-old Mideast conflict will be on the table when talks resume in either Israel or the Palestinian territories in two weeks.
But one looming issue will be how a process that was practically willed into new life by a determined Mr. Kerry – and one which the parties appear to have agreed to in part as a means of maintaining good relations with the US – can be sustained as the pressure to deliver shifts to regional leaders.
It has been something of a mantra for years that no one can want a resolution of the conflict more than the parties themselves, and that truism is about to be put to the test. But no one doubts that the US will have to play a sustained role in the negotiations – ultimately with the participation of President Obama – if the talks are to succeed.