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China Daily Website

Restart peace talks

Updated: 2013-01-24 07:22
( China Daily)

With incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poised to win a third term in Tuesday's voting, concerns and even worries for the Middle East peace process are running high, as it is believed that he will continue to push his hardline policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once he forms a coalition government, which will in turn dampen hopes for an early resumption of the peace talks.

Netanyahu's record during his past two terms has fueled such worries. Peace talks have hit a snag, and political conflict and hostility between the Israelis and Palestinians have been exacerbated.

Understandably, his eventual victory has drawn widespread despair from the Palestinians. Even for Netanyahu's own countrymen, the uncertainties surrounding the election result are perceived as a sign that most Israelis no longer seem to believe it is possible to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians.

All these point to a bumpy road for restarting the Middle East peace talks, which have been stalled since 2010 due to Israel's continuing settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Nonetheless, given the severity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the world community should not relent in their mediation efforts. Under the backdrop that the region at large already has a lot of troubles, such as the Syria crisis and the Iranian nuclear standoff, pushing the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table is the only viable way to dissolve the enmity in peace.

While celebrating his re-election, Netanyahu needs to reflect upon his policy toward Palestine. He should be fully aware of the fact that the international community is showing more sympathy and support to the Palestinians. Even the United States, Israel's closest ally, is losing ground in the world arena as its Middle East policy has drawn wide criticism.

When the United Nations upgraded the status of Palestine to that of a non-member observer state in November, Israel announced a new wave of settlement construction in different areas in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in retaliation. Israel's move was met with unprecedented oppositions from the world community.

Two polls published in December by Israeli news outlets revealed that about two-thirds of Israelis support a peace plan with the Palestinians based on the two-state principle.

It is high time Netanyahu listened to the calls from the outside world as well as from his own people for peace and showed sincerity in softening his policy on Palestine during his fresh term.

(China Daily 01/24/2013 page8)