The United States and other Mideast mediators will gather next week in another effort to revive the Israel-Palestinian peace process, but with little hope of even restarting direct negotiations let alone reaching a breakthrough on a two-state peace agreement.
The "Quartet" of mediators that includes the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations plans to meet Dec. 14 in Jerusalem, US officials said.
The mood is decidedly pessimistic. The looming US election season and the constraints it will put on the Obama administration to effectively pressure either side, particularly Israel,
which enjoys strong support in Congress.
Officials said the quartet will confer separately with Israeli and Palestinian officials, and not bring them together in the same room. Their governments are supposed to present each other with detailed proposals on territory and security by late January. The Quartet timeline was devised to reach a two-state agreement by the end of next year and sidestep a series of contentious UN votes over Palestinian statehood.
But that benchmark looks to be in serious jeopardy, further eroding whatever confidence may be left in the roadmap.
Under the Quartet plan, the two sides should have been engaged in face-to-face talks since October, and officials say the US is blocking a Palestinian attempt to essentially negotiate the parameters of a peace deal by proxy.
Washington has adamantly argued that no progress is possible unless the Israelis and Palestinians negotiate directly.
The informal discussions both sides have had with the Quartet have produced no new ideas regarding borders or security, officials said. They are expecting any written proposals issued next month to be little more than a rehash of old arguments. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the diplomacy.
The Quartet delivered its roadmap
on Sept. 23, just hours after Abbas presented the UN with the Palestinian bid for recognition as a state. The process before the UN Security Council has stalled for now, as the Palestinians lack the necessary support and Washington has promised to veto any resolution of independence anyhow.