US Looking to Calm Palestinian-Israel Conflict, Not Restart Peace Process

Illustrative. US Secretary of State Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of US State Department.

Illustrative. US Secretary of State Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of US State Department.

The situation between the Palestinians and Israel—in which Palestinians have taken up weapons and launched a renewed terror campaign on Israeli civilians—has reached the point where restarting peace talks between the sides isn’t even on the table. As US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Israeli and Palestinian leadership this week, the goal is to work to reduce tensions—not set up a peace deal.

Calming tensions and creating “sustainable” stability is the goal, according to a senior US State Department official previewing Kerry’s visit in a background briefing published by the State Department. While they continue to encourage “concrete steps” that show a “commitment” to a peace agreement, “we’re certainly not trying to make any kind of agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume negotiations or otherwise. That’s not our objective.”

The point was important enough that the official re-emphasized it later. “There’s a difference between saying we think that these are the kinds of things that need to be done to help stabilize the situation on a more sustainable basis—which we are trying to do,” said the official, “and trying to broker some kind of an agreement between the parties to resume or continue negotiations, which is what we were doing two years ago. And so we are not—and I want to stress that—we are not doing that now.”

The current string of terrorism highlights the absurdity of pursuing a long-term deal now. The US official noted that they welcomed the decline in violence that came after the announcement of the plan to install cameras to observe actions on the Temple Mount and the effort to again clarify Israel’s peaceful intentions towards the holy site. But then he noted that the conflict has resumed with the deaths of five at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

Commenting on the Temple Mount camera plan, the official said the technical discussions between Israel and the Jordanian-aligned Waqf religious authority are underway. “I think that’s proceeding exactly as we had intended,” said the official.

Still, he argued that move isn’t enough.

“We always knew that bigger steps would be required beyond that. That was really what we thought of as the first stage. So that’s just—the best way to think of this, it’s part of an ongoing dialogue we’re having with both sides going back to the war in Gaza and before last summer, where we’re trying to remain engaged to try to restore calm and stabilize the situation as much as we possibly can.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 22, 2015)

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