Barack Obama’s attempt at a new “peace process” in the Middle East is already in serious trouble.
Obama wants a breakthrough between the Israelis and Palestinians before he addresses the United Nations (UN) general assembly on 23 September.
Previous negotiations collapsed following Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza in December and January.
Obama hopes to follow up his speech with negotiations in New York between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
Obama’s envoy George Mitchell has been touring the Middle East promoting a new version of the two state solution, which aims to set up a Palestinian state alongside an unchanged Israel.
This has been the “common sense” solution for years now. But it is unworkable in practice as Israel will never allow a viable Palestinian state to emerge.
Since it took control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has divided these Occupied Territories through the building of illegal settlements.
A two state solution would inevitably create a rump Palestinian state that would be utterly dominated by Israel, just as the Occupied Territories are now.
Even though settlers withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel continues to control the lives of the more than one million Palestinians who live there.
Israel’s drive to dominate is continuing.
For instance, Netanyahu has approved the building of 455 new homes for Israeli settlers in the West Bank, rejecting Obama’s demand for a freeze.
Netanyahu wants negotiations to continue so that the US can be convinced to take a harsher line on the Iranian nuclear programme.
Abbas insists he will not meet his Israeli counterparts until there is a freeze on new settlements.
Abbas and his party Fatah are under enormous pressure to take a harder line on Israel after its assault on Gaza.
Fatah has lost support to the more militant Hamas since it has attempted to cooperate with Israel in the Oslo peace process of the 1990s.
This culminated in Hamas winning the democratic elections in the Occupied Territories in 2006.
But Fatah is continuing to try and marginalise Hamas.
The US will only negotiate with Fatah, despite the fact Hamas was elected as the Palestinian Authority’s government.
Fatah seized power in the West Bank in 2007, with Israeli and Western support.
It has since been recognised as the government by those who don’t want to deal with Hamas.
Fatah has recently sacked an elected Hamas mayor in the West Bank town of Qalqilya and replaced him with a Fatah supporter.
Tension remains high between Fatah and Hamas.
However, the two organisations have in principle accepted an Egyptian plan to organise new presidential and parliamentary elections in the Occupied Territories in the first half of next year.
These proposals would put the elections under Arab and Western supervision.
But the problem for Israel and the West with the previous elections was not their fairness, but their result.
No one doubts that Hamas won, but since none of the major states wanted it in power they did everything possible to undermine its position.
The last “peace process” finally stumbled to a halt with Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Last week the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem released a detailed breakdown of fatalities during Israel’s three week attack on the area.
It records that the Israeli army killed 1,387 Palestinians.
Of these 773 were not involved in the hostilities, including 320 children and 109 women.
These figures are near to those given at the time by Hamas, rather than the ones claimed by the Israeli authorities.
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