News Analysis: Prospects for progress in Israeli-Palestinian issue remain dim as new U.S. gov’t may change approach

It is unlikely that Israelis and Palestinians will inch closer to solving their decades-old conflict in the near future as the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, with its hands full with pressing internal matters and unfavorable political conditions in the Middle East, might change Washington’s approach to the conflict, Israeli experts said.

In the last four years, with acquiescence of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump and encouraged by Trump’s controversial Deal of the Century peace plan for the Middle East, Israel intensified its settlement construction in the West Bank, creating facts on the ground that are almost impossible to reverse and thus making a Palestinian state less and less viable.

Meanwhile, both Israelis and Palestinians are suffering internal political instability which make peace, or even talks, unfeasible.

With elections to be held in March, the fourth within two years, it is highly unlikely that the Israeli right-wing parties that dominate the political landscape in the Jewish state will make any concession to the Palestinians no matter whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will remain in office or not. Whoever leads a new Israeli government is unlikely to stop settlement construction.

The Palestinians are also expected to head to the polls in the coming months. Should the elections result in a newly sworn-in and stable government, it is not clear whether negotiations with Israel will be its option.

“There will never be a more pro-settlement plan coming out of the American government. It never happened before and will never again,” said Jonathan Rynhold, a professor with the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University.

“These were years when the chances of peace dwindled,” said Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. “The Trump administration took steps that undermined the international consensus on the two-state solution, weakened a moderate Palestinian leadership and gave Israelis the feeling that the issue is no longer relevant.”

The Biden administration, however, will likely be less tolerant to settlement activity and bring back the two-state solution to the table. At his confirmation hearing in the Senate, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke in favor of the solution, despite an acknowledgment of low potential for progress.

“The (Biden) administration doesn’t see any prospects for massive benefits,” Rynhold told Xinhua. “But what they won’t like is being poked in the eye. They will have to respond and this is where the settlements come in.”

Biden is expected to reinstate ties with the Palestinians and resume the aid funding that was cut off by Trump to signal U.S. re-engagement with the Palestinians.

“The (Biden) administration will first have to emphasize that it attaches importance to solving the conflict,” Goren told Xinhua.

“It has to show that it intends to make an effort. It needs to re-emphasize its commitment to the two-state solution,” he concluded.