The so-called "peace process" is being initiated afresh in Washington, DC on Tuesday with representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the United States meeting to discuss a framework for a new round of negotiations over issues that have kept the parties out of direct talks for nearly five years.
So the issue of Israel/Palestine is back in the US news, but many critics of the beleaguered effort are saying that it is President Obama's choice for the US representative to the talks which represents the best evidence that new progress towards a meaningful settlement will not be reached.
"The United States keeps doing the exact same thing over and over again, and somehow expects that it’s going to lead to a different result, and it’s not." –Josh Ruebner, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
On Monday, Secretary of State confirmed rumors that former Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and employee of the powerful lobbying group AIPAC, would be the US liason to the talks.
Critics say that picking an individual so clearly aligned with Israel makes achieving the necessary progress for Palestinians a near impossibility.
Calling the choice a "a step backwards for the Obama administration," Josh Ruebner, the national advocacy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told WBAI radio hosts Lizzy Ratner and Alex Kane that the talks, sadly, are likely to go nowhere.
"[Obama's] sadly mistaken if he believes that he can keep appointing individuals from these very pro-Israel ideological perspectives to somehow bring about a just and lasting peace," said Ruebner on the Indyk appointment.
"It’s not going to work," he continued. "It hasn’t worked in the past, it won’t work in the future. And it really brings to mind Einstein’s definition of insanity. The United States keeps doing the exact same thing over and over again, and somehow expects that it’s going to lead to a different result, and it’s not."
According Richard Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton and the UN's Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, what's even more troubling about Indyk's new position is the fact that so many in the US media either fail to recognize or refuse to mention the degree to which the choice speaks to the inherent imbalance of US policy in the Middle East.
In an op-ed on Al-Jazeera Tuesday, Falk writes:
Does it not seem strange for the United States, the convening party and the unconditional supporter of Israel, to rely exclusively for diplomatic guidance in this concerted effort to revive the peace talks on persons with such strong and unmistakable pro-Israeli credentials?
What is stranger, still, is that the media never bothers to observe this peculiarity of a negotiating framework in which the side with massive advantages in hard and soft power, as well as great diplomatic leverage, needs to be further strengthened by having the mediating third-party so clearly in its corner. Is this numbness or bias? Are we so used to a biased framework that it is taken for granted, or is it overlooked because it might spoil the PR effect if mentioned out loud?
John Kerry, the Secretary of State, whose show this is, dutifully indicated when announcing the Indyk appointment that success in the negotiations will depend on the willingness of the two sides to make "reasonable compromises". But who will decide on what is reasonable? Can one trust such a determination to a third-party that is unabashedly the political ally of Israel?