The United States has decided to abandon its efforts to persuade Israel to freeze its settlement construction, saying the tactic has failed. The Palestinians’ leadership in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, has been demanding a total settlement freeze as a condition of attending direct talks with Israel under US mediation. Israel’s self-imposed 10-month settlement freeze expired in November which caused the direct talks also to end; Israel refused to extend the freeze on illegal construction of settlements in the occupied territories for 90 more days as requested by the US.
The US offered a proposal with incentives such as jet fighters and security guarantees in return for the 90-day extension. The Israel cabinet rejected the proposal. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to freeze construction if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish State, but the Palestinian Authority dismissed that idea.
It is not clear what the US is planning. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the talks with the Americans were postponed because the US was busy dealing with the Wikileaks release of diplomatic cables. However, this was denied by US State Department spokesperson P J Crowley. The US made clear that abandoning efforts towards settlement freeze does not mean giving up efforts entirely. It said it recognised there was a need to change tactics to resume the peace talks.
Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief representative in the US, said that Israel should be made to comply with international laws and resolutions, adding that the Palestinian Authority had not changed its position on settlement construction. However, the BBC reported that the negotiators would be in Washington next week and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton would give a speech on the Middle East.
If the Palestinian Authority bends to the US's pressure tactics, it could be suicidal to the Palestinians’ interests. The US has been weakened in international forums such as the G20, APEC and the IMF. The EU and emerging market economies such as China and Brazil are increasingly defying pro-US tactics on international relations. As a result, it seems the US is attempting to retain its supremacy with the help of Israel by integrating the Middle East and South Asia into the battlefield. Israel could become a crucial partner to the US in the future in its efforts to assert its hegemony in the global arena of economic, military, and political relations. There are plenty of chances for Israel’s position to be strengthened further because of the US’s weakening situation.