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Israeli and Palestinian negotiators fault US focus on settlements

Both sides, together with the US, appear to be regrouping after the Obama administration gave up on securing another settlement freeze.

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Houses under construction are seen in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim on Dec. 8.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

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The US decision to give up on securing an Israeli settlement freeze has left Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas disappointed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a momentary victory, and observers criticizing the Obama administration's peacemaking strategy.

Indeed, analysts and seasoned negotiators see Tuesday's announcement as the end of a mishandled chapter in Arab-Israeli diplomacy, in which Washington's overriding focus on settlements ultimately failed.

Instead of convening negotiations on borders, Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees, the process came to a dead end with each side blaming the other for the failure.

"It looked like the American exercise was going into futility,'' says Nabil Shaath, a veteran Palestinian negotiator who alleges that Mr. Netanyahu's stated support for negotiations is insincere. "We are not going back to negotiations with Israelis. It won't work. [Netanyahu] hasn't shown one iota of interest in discussing the permanent settlement.''

Back to the drawing board

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