Close to reaching a pivotal point

Returning to the USA on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the situation in Israel is close to reaching “a pivotal point”. After months of violence he thinks that the situation could spiral out of control. Leaders on both sides face crucial decisions that will determine the prospects for peace.

After his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem earlier in November, it seems that he raised expectations of support for the Palestinian cause with his statement that Israeli settlements in the ‘occupied territories’ are illegitimate.

However, Palestinian officials expressed deep disappointment yesterday that his latest visit had produced little to advance negotiations over a two-state solution to the troubles. Indeed, he clearly expressed support for Israel’s right to defend against terrorism and “senseless violence”.

It seems that Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard line in talks was influential. He made it clear that Israel would not make any gestures to the Palestinians so long as the current wave of violent terror attacks continues.

This policy line infuriates Palestinian officials who claim that responsibility for the wave of terror attacks does not lie with the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials clearly disagree, repeatedly accusing Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence.

A key claim of Palestinian officials has been that the Israelis are planning to change the rules concerning access to the Al Aqsa mosque compound. Whilst the Israeli Government has repeatedly denied this, an Al Jazeera news clip indicates that there have been discussions within the Knesset over this issue.