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April 25, 2014

Israeli negotiators walk away from Mideast peace process

John Kerry and attractive man following him

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In the latest bump in the Middle East peace process, Israel announced that its negotiators are walking away from the table after rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah announced a new reconciliation deal.

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority controls affairs in the West Bank while Hamas, the Islamist militant group demanding Israel’s destruction, is the lead Palestinian power inside Gaza.

While the Israeli government is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, it will not enter into talks with Hamas, who they consider a terrorist organization.

“I think that what has happened is a great reverse for peace, because we had hoped that the Palestinian Authority president, Abbas, would embrace the Jewish state, the idea of two nation states, a Palestinian one and a Jewish one,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “But, instead, he took a giant leap backward. As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will never negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by terrorist organizations committed to our destruction.”

However, both Palestinian groups objected to this assessment, saying they would better be able to negotiate with Israel as a united front.

“Certainly, all of the issues and concerns of the Palestinians, which were adversely affected by the ongoing division, will be resolved. The end of the division would help in solving all of these problems,” said Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah.

Israel’s decision was the latest blow to a nine-month peace effort brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The initial deadline for a peace framework was to be next Tuesday. Despite the setback, Kerry said he’s not calling it quits.

“There’s always a way forward, but the leaders have to make the compromises necessary to do that,” said Kerry. “We may see a way forward, but if they’re not willing to make the compromises necessary, it becomes very elusive. We will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities of peace.”

Warm up questions
  1. Where are Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?
  2. What are ways that people solve land disputes?
  3. Why might the United States want there to be peace between two countries that are so far away? What benefits could they gain from stability in this region?
Discussion questions
  1. What is the primary reason that Israel walked away from the peace negotiations?
  2. What are some of the other reasons that have led to a recent increase in tension in these peace talks?
  3. Evaluate Secretary Kerry’s response to the collapse of the negotiations. How did the way he handled it still leave a door open to restart the talks? Would you have done it differently? Why or why not?
Writing prompts

First, outline the problems that contributed to the collapse of the peace negotiations generated in discussion question 1 and 2. Then assess to what degree each problem contributed to the failure of the peace process. Did some problems play a larger role than others? Finally, make an argument for who is most responsible for the collapse of the talks and explain your answer.

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