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Persistence Needed for Middle East Peace Talks

May 19 , 2014
  • Wu Sike

    Member on Foreign Affairs Committee, CPPCC

It is regrettable that the new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which had been slated for a deal by the end of April, came to no avail after nine months of intensive efforts, with Israel and Palestine locked in a finger-pointing game for the “confrontational pause.” If it is assessed rationally and objectively, however, all parties still could see some noteworthy, positive results.

First, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had been stalled for years since 2009, and the fact that two parties returned to the negotiation table was a significant progress. The international community, with the United States as the major initiator and supporter, made unremitting efforts to this end. In particular, it is no exaggeration to say that US Secretary of State John Kerry made his utmost efforts by making 10-plus trips to the Middle East in just one year and tabling plans and proposals for the talks. US President Barack Obama also threw his weight behind the peace talks, and showed his support at critical moments by meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to push for peace.

The Israel-Palestine issue is complicated and extremely difficult. After the talks reopened, Israel released 78 Palestinian prisoners in three batches, and the Palestinian side also adopted a more flexible attitude towards “land swaps” based on the 1967 borders.

Furthermore, during the talks, both sides candidly expressed and elaborated their core concerns and demands. Israel, for its national security consideration, sought to station troops permanently in the West Bank and insisted that Palestine recognizes the nature of the Jewish state. The Palestinian side insisted that it must have Jerusalem as the capital and demanded to demarcate the borders with Israel as early as possible. Each round of talks is a kind of accumulation, and is the stepping stone for further negotiations and for the final settlement to the issue.

The Middle East peace process has witnessed ups and downs in the past 20-strong years and is extremely difficult, but Israeli-Palestinian peace is a trend aspired for and cherished by the peoples. It has become a consensus among all parties that peace talk is the only way to put an end to Israel-Palestine conflicts and to achieve the goal of coexistence of the “two states.” The Palestine issue is a core issue bearing an impact in the entire Middle East. The current political stalemate in the peace talks not only poses a threat to the Middle East peace, but also directly leads to the growing destabilizing factors in the region. If the impasse continues, the Middle East peace process will regress and regional conflicts will inevitably further escalate. Therefore, any effort to promote peace talks should be commended

Needless to say, the unity pact, reached recently by two major Palestinian factions – the Fatah and Hamas – is a new factor to the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian talks, and Israel and the United States are disappointed about the deal. I believe, however, the international community should view the Palestinian internal reconciliation from a broader perspective, because it conforms to the aspirations of the Palestinians, is conducive to Palestine’s internal stability, gives the Palestinian leader more representative power in the peace talks, and reflects the will of the Palestinian people. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has promised that the new Palestinian unity government will abide by the principles – “reject violence, recognize Israel and adhere to existing international commitments.” This shows that the reconciliation agreement will be conducive in guiding the Hamas and more Palestinian factions to the road of peace talks. On the other hand, the Middle East situation also made the Hamas gradually realize that political negotiation is the practical road for peace and is in the best interest of the Palestinian people. We should view the Palestinian internal reconciliation with a tolerant mindset, and do more to promote reconciliation and peace.

Like rowing a boat upstream, peace talks call for persistent efforts, and temporary setbacks should not ruin the efforts. The failure to reach an agreement within the deadline set by Kerry for this round of talks showed, to some extent, a diminishing influence and dominance of the United States in the Middle East. The US, however, is still the most influential party in the region and bears important responsibility and obligations, and no other party could yet match the US in this aspect. However, we should also admit that the US alone could no longer solve the complicated Middle East issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue. International community should join hands and make concerted efforts, and the United Nations, in particular, should shoulder bigger responsibilities from a higher perspective of human peace. It is imperative to promote Israel and Palestine to grow confidence in peace, to maintain patience in the peace talk, and to work toward peace step by step with practical actions. At present, both parties should shun any measures that might escalate the tension. Israel should stop building new settlements, and respect the existence of different religions in Jerusalem; and the Palestinian side should take practical measures to prevent firing missiles into the Israeli territory. The two parties should reject and oppose to violent activities against civilians. All these are of critical importance in creating and maintaining a favorable environment for the peace talks. Leaders from Palestine and Israel must be sober-minded, face up to the historical missions and responsibilities on their shoulders, and make practical efforts to embark again onto the road of negotiations. China is always a strong supporter for peace, and will, together with the international community, make its contributions in promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation and the Middle East peace. 

Wu Sike is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and member of the Foreign Policy Consulting Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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