Both sides have kept the details of the negotiations, which are being shepherded by US Secretary of State John Kerry, under wraps.
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The talks are meant to reach a final-status peace deal that will solve all outstanding issues between the two sides, including borders, refugees, water, and Jerusalem. It is also meant to end with a declaration that Israelis and Palestinians have reached an “end of conflict,” meaning Palestinians have no future claims on Israel.
But there has recently been speculation in the Israeli press that Israel will offer some kind of interim agreement, perhaps a Palestinian state in Areas A and B, the 40 percent of the West Bank that is already under complete or partial Palestinian control and includes the main Palestinian cities such as Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem.
“Israel is not prepared for a final agreement that will mean ending its control over the occupied territories,” Ghassan Khatib, a professor of cultural studies at Birzeit University and a former Palestinian government spokesman told The Media Line. “The question is if the US is willing to use its leverage over Israel.”
On the other side, many Israeli analysts say the Palestinians have passed up several opportunities for a peace deal with Israel, and nothing has changed.
“I don’t think the Palestinians are interested in a solution in any case,” Efraim Karsh, a professor at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “They have refused all solutions over the past 20 years. What’s changed now – that they’re charmed by Kerry?”
Palestinians say Israel must stop all construction on land Israel acquired in 1967, where some 330,000 Israelis live, as well as east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967. Israeli officials counter that Palestinians must stop incitement against Israel in mosques and Palestinian schools.
The question of the Palestinians’ right of return will also be difficult. Some 750,000 Palestinians both fled their homes and were forced to leave when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Today their descendants – some 4 million people – claim the right to return to their former homes in Israel.
At the same time, Israel demands that Palestinians recognize the country as a “Jewish state.”
Some Palestinians say that the two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, is no longer feasible and they should advocate for a “one-state solution.” In this scenario, Israel would annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip and give the Palestinians citizenship. Most Israelis oppose this solution because, with the higher Palestinian birthrate, Israel would eventually no longer have a Jewish majority.
Other Palestinian analysts say the two-state solution, which is favored by the US, is still possible.
“Time hasn’t run out yet, but it is running out,” Khatib said. “I think this term of Netanyahu is the last opportunity for the two-state solution. If he continues to consolidate the “occupation” it will be too late.
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