Palestinians sit outside their house that witnesses said
was heavily shelled by Israel during the offensive, in the
Shejaia neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. Photo by Reuters
A week after the guns fell silent in the Gaza war, Israel
and the Palestinians seem to have little appetite or incentive
for a return to US-sponsored peace and statehood talks that
collapsed five months ago.
With conflicts raging in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria - and the
future of the Gaza Strip largely uncharted by a broadbrush
Egyptian-mediated ceasefire deal - world powers also are not
rushing headlong into the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.
The parties themselves, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
bickering governing coalition and Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas, are on a collision course over threatened
Palestinian unilateral moves toward statehood and exploration
of war crimes prosecution against Israel in the absence of
Israel drew Palestinian and international criticism on Sunday
by announcing a major appropriation of occupied land in the
West Bank, the most significant such move in 30 years.
As head of a governing coalition divided over trading
territory for peace, Netanyahu is now speaking, in amorphous
terms, of an alternative route towards ending decades of
conflict - a "new horizon" - or possible regional alliance
with moderate Arab countries alarmed, like Israel, by radical
Closer to home and with the Gaza situation still in flux,
there is nothing on the immediate horizon as far as
peacemaking with Abbas is concerned, Israeli government
Under the Egyptian-brokered truce agreement, Israel and the
Palestinians agreed to address complex issues such as Hamas's
demands for a Gaza seaport and the release of Palestinian
prisoners via indirect talks starting within a month.
With the start of those negotiations still up in the air,
Netanyahu wants to see whether Abbas takes over
responsibility from Hamas for administering Gaza's borders
and that measures are taken to prevent the group from
smuggling in weaponry.
Netanyahu, who appears to be weathering an approval rating
plunge after the Gaza war ended without a clear victor, took
a swipe at Abbas last week, summing up a conflict which the
Palestinian leader persistently tried to bring to an end.
"Abu Mazen has to choose which side he is on," Netanyahu told
a news conference, using Abbas's nickname.
The comment harked back to Israel's decision in April to cut
off peace talks with Abbas after he clinched a unity deal
with Hamas, a bitter rival that had seized the Gaza Strip
from his Fatah forces in 2007.
Those negotiations, on creating a Palestinian state in the
occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, were already going
nowhere, with Palestinians pointing to expanding Israeli
settlement on land they claim as their own and balking at
Israel's demand to recognise it as the Jewish homeland.
In an editorial laden with scepticism, Israel's liberal
Haaretz newspaper questioned whether "as in the past"
Netanyahu's remarks on casting a regional peace net, "are
only empty slogans".
Some of his cabinet ministers are also pressing Netanyahu to
get moving on a wider track.
"We cannot and will not allow a situation whereby this
ceasefire is the beginning of the countdown to the next round
of fire. If we don't take the diplomatic initiative, this is
exactly what will happen," Finance Minister Yair Lapid said.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator in
now-dormant talks with the Palestinians, said: "(Netanyahu)
has to be put to the test on this."
Livni, speaking on Israel Radio, said Israel should "create a
front with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - those countries
threatened by all of those beheaders running around the
But, she said, "they can cooperate with us only if there is a
basic minimum of a peace process - dialogue with the moderate
elements in the Palestinian Authority".
In the past, Netanyahu has expressed little interest in
embracing a regional peace plan, such as the 2002 Arab
initiative that offered normalised ties with Israel if it
withdrew fully from territory captured in a 1967 war.
But last year, he signalled in a speech to parliament a
readiness to consider the proposal, raised at an Arab League
summit 12 years ago, as long as it did not contain "edicts".
Any land-for-peace moves would elicit even more dissent from
right-wingers in his government who have been vocal over
Netanyahu's reluctance to heed their calls during the Gaza
war for a full-scale invasion to crush Hamas.
For now, he appears to be in little danger of seeing his
political partnerships unravel.
About a month into the war, 77 percent of Israelis surveyed
in a Haaretz-Dialog poll described Netanyahu's performance
during the conflict as either good or excellent. That figure
dropped to around 50 percent after the ceasefire was
But the snap poll taken a day after the truce went into
effect showed that despite his flagging popularity, he
continued to top, by a wide margin, the list of politicians
whom Israelis believed were most suited to lead them as prime
The second-place pick was "Don't know".