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Palestinian-Israeli peace process expected to stall

The likelihood that Israel's next government will have little interest in reviving a stalled peace process presents a major setback to President Obama's ambitions to promote US mediation. The UN demands that Israel rapidly accelerate the flow of aid into Gaza. The Palestinian Authority presses the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate accusations of war crimes committed by Israeli commanders during the recent war in Gaza.

"Tzipi Livni should consider sitting in the opposition and attacking the Likud's policy, and within a year-and-a-half Kadima will lead the country," a Kadima party official told Ynet Wednesday night amid coalition negotiations launched on the heels of Tuesday's inconclusive general elections in Israel. Political establishment sources estimate that, barring any unforeseen developments, President Shimon Peres will eventually task Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu with establishing the next government, the report said. The outcome of the election presents a significant setback to President Obama's ambition of moving quickly to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, analysts told The Washington Post. "You are going to have a very wobbly, dysfunctional, survival-minded coalition in Israel," said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator. The report said: "Administration officials said yesterday they would not comment pending official returns, but many key players have long and difficult memories of dealing with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, when he was prime minister during the Clinton administration. It is no secret that US officials would prefer to deal with Livni, who as foreign minister spearheaded unsuccessful talks with the Palestinians in the waning days of the Bush administration. " 'The hope is that there is a government that is really committed to peace with the Palestinians,' said one senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing another country's politics. Even if Netanyahu prevails, the official added somewhat hopefully, 'he's grown over the years. Getting back to the talks with the Palestinians is really the only solution.' " The New York Times reported: "The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, repeated Tuesday his demand that Israel allow significantly more humanitarian aid into the beleaguered Gaza Strip, and he announced that he would send a team to investigate the bombings of United Nations facilities there. "The human rights organisation Amnesty International issued a statement criticizing Mr Ban for being too timid on the extent of the inquiry. "Mr Ban said at a news conference that the United Nations was trying to get relief supplies to nearly one million people daily, but that Israel was only allowing one border crossing to open, permitting trucks with supplies for only about 30,000 people to get through." The New York Times also reported: "The Palestinian Authority is pressing the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate accusations of war crimes committed by Israeli commanders during the recent war in Gaza. "The Palestinian minister of justice, Ali Kashan, first raised the issue during a visit to the court's chief prosecutor late last month, and he and other officials are due back again in The Hague this week, court officials said. "Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, had initially said he lacked the legal basis to examine the case. But since the Palestinian Authority signed a commitment on Jan 22 recognizing the court's authority, the prosecutor has appeared more open to studying the Palestinian claim." In The National, Jordan's Prince El Hassan bin Talal wrote: "Today the Palestinian people exist in a state of limbo. They enjoy neither statehood nor the status of a protected community. Instead of the reciprocity of two states enjoying equal sovereignty as originally envisaged by the United Nations partition plan, one of these states - Israel - predicates the establishment of the other - Palestine - on its own security, and claims the right to determine whom among the Palestinians it accepts as a valid interlocutor and partner. "This asymmetrical position has unfortunately come to define the approach of those powers, great and small, which have substituted themselves for the United Nations as the ultimate source of legitimacy. By dividing the Palestinians into two categories, 'moderates' and 'extremists', they have effectively endorsed Israel's position, thus denying the Palestinian people's right to choose their representatives." The Washington Times said: "An influential Palestinian lawmaker visiting Washington urged the Obama administration to accept a government for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that would bridge divisions between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas. "Mustafa Barghouthi, a member of the Palestinian parliament and leader of the Palestinian National Initiative, blamed the Bush administration and Israel for the collapse of the previous unity government, which lasted three months in 2007. " 'They never gave the national unity government a chance,' Mr Barghouthi, who was minister of information in the short-lived Cabinet, said in an interview this week... "The US cannot afford to continuing dealing only with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas because he has been weakened by Israel's recent offensive in Gaza, Mr Barghouthi said. 'You have to deal with the whole Palestinian spectrum.' " Press TV reported: "Iran says the world knows that no solution could be found to the Middle East conflict without considering Hamas and the resistance. "The majority of world political experts have realized that the Middle East crisis cannot be defused without including Hamas and the resistance in the solution, Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said on Wednesday. "He made the remarks during a meeting with the visiting leader of the Palestinian movement Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdullah in Tehran." In The Guardian, Carlo Strenger, a philosopher and psychoanalyst at Tel Aviv University wrote: "These elections have proven that even though Israel is a hi-tech powerhouse with a strong army and a functioning democracy, it no longer has the ability to think strategically, act morally and truly manage its own fate. Given that the Palestinians have lost any cohesiveness and have no functioning leadership, the region is likely to deteriorate into chaos and violence. "Israel's tragedy is that the motivation for the Zionist project was to allow Jews a life of dignity, freedom and self-determination. Instead Israel is turning into a ghetto, progressively oblivious of the outside world, with a paranoid and often dehumanising attitude towards Arabs and deafness towards the values of the western world to which it wants to belong. The resulting moral blindness was dramatically shown in the way the Gaza operation was conducted. "Because the Palestinians have no Nelson Mandela and Israel has no De Klerk, and because there is no leadership worthy of the name on either side, the only way to avert catastrophe is that the US will muster the political will to pressure Israel and the Palestinians into a process along the lines of the Arab League initiative and to move towards a comprehensive, regional settlement."

pwoodward@thenational.ae

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