Pressure from the American administration may lead the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table and away from recent turbulent political developments
At the end of a tense week, and against the backdrop of an American threat to end their mediation efforts, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are expected to hold a series of meetings aimed at returning to the negotiations table.
Fear of political stagnation is expected to aid the efforts, and some Israeli officials have expressed cautious optimism regarding the chances to extend and advance the peace talks.
"The sides understand that this is the last chance," said a senior Israeli official privy to the details of the negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry (Photo: Reuters)
Since Wednesday, the Israelis and Palestinians have met twice, and dozens of additional calls were held through US mediation, in an attempt to formulate a new way to return the sides to the negotiations table.
Another meeting is expected to take place Sunday, by the end of which a message will be sent to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is expected to meet with President Barack Obama. The two are expected to deliberate on the status of the negotiations and decide on the future of the US-led effort.
Obama's intervention in the talks, after months of letting Kerry lead the effort unaided, raises doubts in Israel regarding a possible withdrawal by the Americans from their commitment to the peace talks.
"This time it's serious, it's not a show. The Americans are examining the possibilities standing before them and they need to make a decision. It affects both us and the Palestinians, and so we have to find a way to not end these negotiations," an Israeli official explained.
At the moment, it seems the deal that includes the release of American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is off the table, and the sides would have to find a creative way to renew the talks, in light of threats by Abbas to turn to the UN and Israel's refusal to release the promised fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners.
"This matter is up to the Palestinians," the Israeli source added. "If they insist on the fourth group, it will be a problem. We are willing to consider overriding the demand to cancel the Palestinian turn to the UN, but the question is whether the Palestinian are willing to override the request for the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, which at this state seems impossible."
The agreed-upon schedule for the talks allows the sides several weeks to find a solution. Formally, the negotiations are supposed to end by the end of the month, as was set nine months ago, and the complicated task now is to extend the deadline.
The optimists on the Israeli side are hopeful that the American pressure will bear fruit. "The upcoming days and weeks offer an opportunity to find a solution, but the Palestinians should also understand the need to be more flexible," said the Israeli source.
"Calling off the talks is very problematic; a marathon of meeting and talks is underway now to reach minimal understanding in order to allow the negotiations to continue."