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Palestine–Israel peace process continues to falter

US President Barack Obama is due to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington later today to discuss the tenuous state of Israel-Palestine peace talks.

The deadline for the Palestinian-Israeli talks, to at least come up with a “framework” for peace, was set as 29 April last year. Yet as the time draws nearer fewer people have hopes that any substantive agreement will be achieved by then. Israel is currently demanding that the deadline for talks should be extended, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is resisting.

Both sides are blaming the other for the lack of progress in the talks. The Palestinians point to Israel having reneged on their promise to release the final batch of Palestinian prisoners, who were due to be released weeks ago as part of a prisoner release deal.  In turn the Israelis say that Abba’s request to join 15 United Nations treaties, including the Geneva Convention, with an eye to getting Palestine full state recognition, contravenes their tentative understanding that Palestine would not pursue that option during peace talks and say it is a sign that Palestinians have no interest in working with Israel. Israel has been infuriated by the move and are now threatening to prosecute Abbas for “war crimes”. Netanyahu said that Palestinians have “a lot to lose” by attempting to gain UN recognition and that Israel will respond with “unilateral action”.

Kerry seems frustrated by both sides and said during his visit to Morocco last week that “it is regrettable that in the last few days both sides have taken steps that are not helpful and that's evident to everybody”.

As it stands, the last round of talks took place between Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat, and US mediator Martin Indyk late on Monday and ended in the early hours of Tuesday. This came swiftly on the back of a six-hour meeting between the two sides on Sunday. There is no report yet as to when the next meeting might take place but according to Reuters an Israeli official, who has asked to remain anonymous, said "The atmosphere was business-like and the sides agreed to meet again to try to find a solution to the crisis".

The lack of any significant progress will come as no surprise to anyone following the peace talks. Hopes have been muted from the start. With Israel’s continued building of settlements and its insistence that Palestinians recognise it as a Jewish state things have not looked promising for some time now.

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According to Reuters: “Secretary of State John Kerry signalled on Friday he may scale back his intense mediating efforts due to "unhelpful actions" by Israel and the Palestinians, saying it was time for a "reality check" and Washington would re-evaluate its role”

It will be embarrassing for the US is talks come to nothing considering the key role they have played in leading the talks and the considerable amount of effort, time and money they have spent acting as mediator.  

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