There has been a striking lack of progress in the Middle East peace process in recent years and it is the Europeans that are especially struggling to have their say. However, they still do have the necessary power and influence to make themselves heard and thus need to take the initiative and act now.
What we are witnessing today is a major decline in the efforts required to broker a peace between the two nations. In fact, the progress achieved in the Oslo Accords, which has been progressively lessening, lost momentum to such a point that the Accords appear to have been stripped of their purpose. What used to bring both sides to the negotiation table in the past has now been lost and replaced by a systematic settlement policy by the Israeli authorities to which they have now added systematic daily monitoring of all movements of the Palestinian population.
At the same time, there are growing divisions within the Palestinian leadership, which threaten to undermine its capacity to navigate the peace process. Moreover, there is a general feeling that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become less of a priority due to the pressing issues surrounding Iranian influence in the region. This is also coupled with the fact that the traditional players are losing their vision and determination when it comes to the conflict. US President Donald Trump seems particularly unwilling to commit America towards helping to achieve a lasting solution to the Middle East problem.
The Quartet – or Quartet on the Middle East – which is mandated by the United Nations to keep the peace process up and running, remains powerless to achieve anything meaningful as it does not have any influence on the events on the ground. There is, however, some hope as it appears that Russia, China and France are, amongst others, trying to keep the peace talks alive, albeit bilaterally. But these countries must realize that there are limits to the progress that their readiness to do something can achieve.
The lack of progress is the result of a complete lack of trust between these two nations who have both claimed rights over the same land. This is further exacerbated by Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, which have always been focused on the reduction in the freedom of movement of Palestinians and their associated actions in the Gaza strip and the West Bank. The second factor is the current lack of unity and cohesion between Palestinians and the end of their diplomatic isolation, which supports the doubts among the Israeli leadership as to whether the two-state solution can bring about a true peace between the two nations.
Faced with such discouraging circumstances, the international community has not yet been able to gather the determination and resources to find a way out of this impasse. Europeans, much like the other players, are not ready and willing to deal with the problem directly. However, they keep on pushing to affirm that they want to push on and find a lasting and sustainable solution for the Middle East conflict. We must be ambitious and hope to regain a role within the peace process and we must do so to help restore the possibility of a successful conclusion to the peace efforts.
‘Europe Must Face the New Realities of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’ – Op-Ed by Pierre Vimont – Carnegie Europe.
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