Middle East

Mid-East peace talks: 'Total fiasco'

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says Middle East peace talks are in crisis following Israel's refusal to stop building settlements on occupied land.

The Palestinians suspended talks in September after a 10-month freeze on Israeli building in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, expired.

Here, Palestinian and Israeli people give their views on the talks and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Ori Pomson, Israeli student, 18, currently in West Bank

For peace talks to collapse over the issue of settlements is completely ridiculous. According to the Oslo Accords - the basis to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - the settlements issue is to only be negotiated in a final phase of negotiations.

I am currently living in a West Bank settlement called Alon Shvut while I am undertaking Yeshiva - a year of religious studies.

The media tends to portray settlers as stalling the peace process. I think this completely contrary to the reality. The people here are normal and friendly - probably more friendly than people in Jerusalem. The people here are peaceful and get on well with our Arab neighbours - many Arabs work in the settlements. The people here are interested in working for peace.

But the chances of peace now seem quite bleak. If the Palestinians are stalling over settlements, it doesn't seem very likely that we can move on to some more fundamental issues. How can two states live together side by side? This is the real issue. And I do believe that most Israelis want to move to this goal.

To move toward the final goal of peace Israel would have to dismantle a few settlements in the areas that haven't become very built up. But in return we would need a Palestinian leadership that is truly motivated to achieve peace. We need a Palestinian leadership similar to that of Anwar Sadat of Egypt in the 1970s.

Unfortunately the current Palestinian leadership aren't really interested in coming to any sort of consensus with the Israelis.

The Palestinian leadership are just looking for the Israelis to make continuous concessions. This would explain why the Palestinians are picking the issue of settlements as an excuse to back out of negotiations.

Yousef Al-Helou, Palestinian journalist, 30, Gaza City

Today's news shows that the US administration is very weak. They can't overcome the obstacles. How come they can't put enough pressure on Israel?

From the very beginning, the Palestinians did not expect any result because it was clear that Israel was not interested in peace.The talks are a waste of time, that's what the overall majority of Palestinians believe - they are a total fiasco.

Israel are continuing with the settlements and they're not doing any gestures of goodwill, such as taking some roadblocks away or releasing Palestinian prisoners. Israel has been stealing Palestinian land for decades. It shows that it doesn't want Palestinians to have their own Palestinian state.

I don't believe Obama is serious either - his slogan of bringing change was just one he used to become president. Ironically, even though America is the most powerful nation in the world, it's not strong enough to criticise Israel.

The United States needs Israel as a base to US military in the middle east and the Israel lobby is very powerful in the white house. Obama is just pushing the same policies of his predecessor.

I don't think Hamas will be in on any peaceful agreement with the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and for any peace deal to be successful then Hamas should be included.

It's collective punishment in Gaza, it's like living in a prison. We're stuck in a small part of land which is totally reliant of foreign aid. We have skills but we don't have the means. Israel doesn't allow us to export to import, to seek medical care and to move. We want liberty and to have a decent live.

I didn't enjoy my childhood in Gaza. My family was displaced here, my father's hometown was 50km from here. Why can't I go there? Why can't we visit?

I've seen people who have been jailed, whose houses were destroyed, who have been torn apart during war. I'm one of the luckiest because I'm a journalist and I've travelled around Europe and met different people. I've seen beyond this place but people here don't have jobs or work, there's no life here. People tell me they're dying slowly, that they're counting the days and they want to feel that they are human.

Over the years the Israeli government has been feeding the minds of their citizens saying that Palestinians are all terrorists, they're planting the seeds of fear in them.

Tens of Palestinian labourers used to work in Israel before the outbreak of Al-Aqsa uprising in the year 2000. Now there is an army of jobless and unemployed people in the besieged territory and Israel keeps destroying the Gazan economy. Ordinary people here are being punished, they are a peaceful people who want to have a happy life."

Geoff Menzer, retired Israeli, 67, Tel Aviv

I am very disappointed. It's difficult to get to a consensus with our present government, which is full of right-wing people who don't want to have a settlement freeze. I think we need a change of government for the peace to have any chance.

As a recent resident here, I find sympathy for all involved in the conflict.

On the one hand Israel has survived many wars thrust upon it. It has had to endure suicide bombers on buses and in restaurants and two intifadas. We pulled out of Gaza only to be struck by thousands of short range missiles.

However, the issue of settlements is also a barrier to peace. I have to ask myself if I were a Palestinian, would I be able to accept a future state with so many holes in it?

I am in Israel for personal reasons - because my partner is here. But many settlers firmly believe that it is their God given right to live there.

It is not that the settlers actively seek to ignore or antagonise the Arab residents - rather they tend to live in a right-wing, religious bubble.

The Israeli government is also worrying. In order to maintain a government at all, Netanyahu has had to make a coalition with ultra-religious and extremely right-wing politicians. These people in turn actively support the settlers. So this makes it even harder to resolve this issue.

On several occasions when I've had the pleasure of talking at length to the "ordinary Palestinian", I have found them to be pleasant and receptive. But they in turn need to realise how they have been misled by their own leaders into believing that every Jew or Israeli hated them.

Until both sides are prepared to start by considering the ordinary man in the street ahead of political ambition, or before using extremists as excuse for further progress, there will be no progress. I am pessimistic about the chances of peace with the current political leadership on both sides.

Sameer Khraishi, 26, administrator, Ramallah, West Bank

This latest news doesn't surprise me. The thing that surprises me most is that we are talking about settlement freezing, and not about getting rid of settlements.

The Palestinian leadership is fragile - it desperately seeks sympathy from other nations to support the Palestinian cause. Our leadership should be standing among the people, waiting in the queues at checkpoints for hours under the burning sun - not dining with Hillary Clinton.

President Abbas will not be able to deal with Israel because he is far too detached from the core of the Palestinian struggle and he's blinded by the fake luxury of being a president.

We should be resisting the organised land thievery that is happening now in the West Bank and elsewhere.

The people need basic human rights, such as the right to move freely - and not to be caged behind a "security" wall.

I cannot understand why the Israelis want to continue building settlements and I do not want to understand it, because it is irrational.

The current leaders of Israel, from the right to the left, are not stable at all.

What do I think the chances of peace are? Having our own Palestinian country with full control on the "historical" land of Palestine is peace. Having a respectful identity is peace, control over borders and air space, this is peace. All this is not possible under the current political situation. I have no hope of peace with Israel.

Israel Dalven, 63, Israeli technical writer, West Bank

This is good news for peace, which will not come from the formation of a Palestinian state.

I do not believe the settlements that have brought matters to a head are so important to the Palestinians. Their maps show Tel Aviv as a settlement and an obstacle to peace. They refuse to recognise Israel as a Jewish state because their goal is the recovery of all our land. 

The diplomatic process that does not support this goal is pointless to them. This cannot be resolved.

The impression one gets from the news is very different from the reality of the shared living space that I see. But only through Israeli rule can this continue. Any change will bring death and destruction.

I would like to see the world recognise Jewish sovereignty over all of the Biblical land of Israel lying west of the Jordan river. This would make it clear to the Arab world that they lost it as they lost Spain. This will lead to peace.

I am willing to leave the Arabs on the land they legally own as foreign citizens with permanent resident status, providing they recognise Jewish sovereignty and obey the law.

The Palestinians should stop educating their youth to hate and instead teach them the Jewish claim to the land. I do not know if this can happen. Their education now precludes the possibility of peace.

I would like to see all foreign reporters take a tour of the daily life of Jews and Arabs living peacefully in the "occupied territories" and count them, versus the few that suffer.

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