Saturday, March 27, 2010

Another video

The Palestine Center has a great video on Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. They've been dominating the news recently and are the reason for the current tension between Obama and Netanyahu, so why not see for yourself what really is going on:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two links on settlements

Americans for Peace Now has a great article that blows away six all too persistent myths about Israeli policy in East Jerusalem. The Myths:
  •  "Everyone knows" certain areas of East Jerusalem will be annexed to Israel in a peace deal.
  • East Jerusalem Palestinians can build anywhere in Jerusalem, limiting Jews to only West Jerusalem is racist.
  • The planning and approval process for East Jerusalem is so confusing that Israeli leaders could not possibly have known what was going on.
  • The land on which East Jerusalem settlements are built was not being used by anyone until Israel built there.
  • Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem do not bother Palestinians in any way.
  • Jerusalem settlements are not an obstacle to peace.
You guessed it, they're all dead wrong, and APN does a great job of busting the myths.

Leon Hadar at Foreign Policy's new Middle East Channel (which I rate a 9.5/10 - it's spectacularly informative and downright awesome) reminds us of when Bush stood up for peace by withholding loan guarantees to Israel. Not W. Bush, of course, but his much more principled father. The Israelis backed down on their "expansionist policies" and Bush came out on top. Hadar makes some good recommendations for the Obama administration to navigate through his tension with Israeli PM Netanyahu.

Films for Friday

I've discovered two Palestinian animated films thanks to the smart people at ISM that I believe are must-sees. The first is a short film (more like an advertisement) concerning the lack of freedom of movement for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Does the job pretty well of showing the frustrations concerning movement in the enclave:

The second is a three-part short animated film written and directed by a very talented Palestinian crew and produced by the World Health Organization's West Bank and Gaza Branch. The film is based on a true story of a women's struggle fighting breast cancer and the siege of the Gaza Strip. It is a very moving film, very well done, and I would highly recommend it if you have a spare half hour in your day. It is well worth it:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Enjoy, normal posting will return Monday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pick your partner

Extremists in Gaza (those more violent and nihilist than Hamas) will do everything in their power to scuttle any hope for peace talks. Peace is the enemy to them. Negotiations that provide tangible benefits to the Palestinian people are the greatest threat to them, more even than Israeli tanks and gunships. Small Islamist extremist groups such as Ansar Al-Sunna, responsible yesterday for the killing of a Thai farm worker in Southern Israel with a homemade rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, have been popping up around the besieged strip since Hamas signed a short-lived ceasefire with Israel in the summer of 2008. These groups provide nothing to Palestinians, seek to build nothing, and live off the hopelessness and desolation of a repressed population cynical of the peace process. Even Hamas has cracked down on these kinds of groups and has attempted to impose a ceasefire on Palestinian groups attacking Israel from the Gaza Strip, believing that a fragile ceasefire, not endless, indiscriminate violence, is what Palestinians in the Strip most need to rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives. Continuous peace failures, greater closure on the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip unite and empower these groups, when Palestinians lose all hope in diplomacy and civil disobedience as means to achieve freedom. When peace talks fail these groups (and of course Hamas) win.

The existence of such groups should be an impetus for Israel, the U.S., and the Palestinian authority to work tirelessly to achieve peace through negotiation. Ansar Al-Sunna are the consequences rather than the cause of the current lack of a negotiated solution. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had built his post-Arafat career on the grounds that he can achieve through negotiations what Hamas and other militant groups cannot through violence. After Hamas called for a "Day of Rage" in Jerusalem, and with tensions high across the Palestinian territories following a five day total closure of the West Bank and the announcement of the further expansion of Israeli settlements, Abbas doubled-down yesterday on the peace through negotiations rhetoric, telling visiting Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, "There is no other way to achieve peace than through negotiations." The Israelis have the opportunity to pick their partner in this struggle, and the choice is between men like Abbas and groups like Hamas and Ansar Al-Sunna. Peace will come at a price to the Israelis but the price of failure is far higher. If negotiations continue to fail as spectacularly as they have in the past, there is a very real risk that the Palestinian public will lose their faith in the negotiations strategy and move to support Hamas and even more violent groups. Saeb Erekat, the lead negotiator of the PLO has been ominously warning for many years that if the Israelis are unable to negotiate with him, soon their only option will be to negotiate with Hamas. The Israelis for their part, must stop arresting, assaulting, and treating non-violent peace activists as enemies and militants and prepare to acknowledge that the settlement enterprise must one day be curtailed.

The choice is Israel's alone. Pick your partner: Abbas or Ansar.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In the words of Tom Petty, it's time to move on...

It is time to move forward. Israel has been sufficiently embarrassed by Obama administration officials, and rightly so. Their announcement to build expand an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem by 1600 housing units at the opening round of indirect talks with the Palestinians was ill-advised, illegal, and undermined a situation of reserved, though tangible hope that progress would be made. Western media outlets expected some sort of progress during the U.S.-mediated talks and when Israel's fateful decision caused the Palestinians to balk at continuing negotiations, those outlets reported Israel's intransigence in unprecedented clarity, some asking even if Israel was ready to make peace. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even asked Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to prove his government was committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict, and detailed several demands that Israel could undertake to improve the situation. From various media reports, the Clinton demands include canceling or freezing the plan to build 1600 units in East Jerusalem until the outcome of the peace talks, investigating the process that led to the approval during such a sensitive time, making a substantial gesture to the Palestinians (such as removing checkpoints in the West Bank, easing the siege of Gaza, or releasing Palestinian prisoners), and publicly announcing that the talks (even indirect negotiations) will include all of the core issues of the conflict (status of Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, etc.).

The demands are in no way severe, and I agree with the Haaretz Editorial Board that Netanyahu should accept them without delay. The Prime Minister's answer to Clinton's demands is expected to be delivered today during a call between the two. With how anxious American officials are to ratchet down the rhetoric with Israel, Netanyahu could probably easily get away with placing a hold on the 1600 units and announcing that the status of Jerusalem will be up for discussion; he would not have to even think about making a gesture to the Palestinians. Clinton and Special Envoy George Mitchell should also press the Palestinians to make it known they will return to the table if Netanyahu accedes to Clinton's demands.

Criticism of Israel's move was needed to lay the ground rules for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable during the peace talks and my hope is that Netanyahu will gain a new appreciation for the expectations the U.S. has of Israel in respect to their commitments to peace with the Palestinians. The Obama administration has maintained a very different line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict their their predecessors Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush. Instead of claiming that the U.S. cannot want peace more than the parties themselves, as the last few presidents have said when peace talks have reached a stalemate, Obama, since he began campaigning for president, through his Cairo Speech, and during the most recent crisis between his administration and Israel has held that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a vital American interest, politically, militarily, and diplomatically - and he's absolutely right. He is echoed by CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, who has repeatedly stated that failure to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians causes problems in his neck of the woods. Just yesterday the decorated general told Congress:

These factors can serve as root causes of instability or as obstacles to security. Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace. The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [Area of Responsibility of Cntcom] Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

That's right from the warhorse's mouth: the lack of peace in the Holy Land is causing problems for our troops elsewhere in the region and empowering and emboldening Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and Iran. Petraeus' testimony echoes a 2004 report from the Defense Science Board Task Force that argued that lack of progress and American favoritism of Israel were two of the leading sources of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. No wonder Obama wants to find peace, even if it means browbeating the stubborn Palestinians to the table, and chastising the Israeli's when they undermine talks with boneheaded actions - he can weaken four of America's boogeymen with one fell swoop.

But now is the time to move on and begin pursuing real, sustainable peace. Netanyahu should boldly proclaim that the dog and pony show is over and the time for peace has come. The Israeli leadership will have to make hard choices and the Israeli people should be told honestly that true peace with the Palestinians may require the evacuation of settlements in the West Bank and the sharing of Jerusalem. He must explain in no uncertain terms that peace will mean that Israel will cease to dominate the Palestinians and that the two peoples will live as equals alongside one another in their respective states. Peace may require Netanyahu to seek coalition partners in Kadima, while turning his back on the far right Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. Peace will require a reorganized and rededicated Israeli administration, but the votes and support are there in the Israeli mainstream.

Now is also the time for the Palestinian leadership to be bold. President Mahmoud Abbas must counter Hamas calls for violence and unrest by appealing to the Palestinians to remain calm during these tense times in order to help build the trust needed to sustain the negotiations. He will have to tirelessly work with the Americans and Israelis to achieve through words what Hamas has been unable to achieve through violence. Abbas will have to honestly speak to the Palestinians and inform them that real peace may require that Palestinian refugees do not return en masse to Israel proper but that other arrangements may have to be found. He will have to make hard decisions but the political will and support of the Palestinians is there. If Israel agrees to discuss all of the core issues, Abbas should begin direct negotiations with his Israeli counterpart.

For the boldness of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to result in a real, sustainable peace, the American leadership must rededicate itself to the peace process, engage all of the stakeholders (the Middle East Quartet, Turkey, Egypt, and the Arab League), and develop a plan for negotiations that will lead to a solution acceptable to both sides. The Obama administration has begun to make parts of this plan known, but has failed to fully articulate a comprehensive plan that stakeholders and parties alike can sign on to and be held accountable to. Obama, Clinton, and Mitchell must prepare such a document and soon.

The two-state solution is not dead as many may believe, but time is quickly running out. The Palestinians are unlikely to find an American administration fairer than the one led by Obama and while Israel's current government is far from friendly to many decisions that will be needed to advance peace, Netanyahu's characteristic pragmatism may very well allow Israelis to know true peace soon enough.

It is time to move on, learn from this crisis, and recommit to an honest, good-faith peace process.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When Tom Friedman criticizes Israel, you know they messed up

Even he takes the opportunity to get in one last punch in his New York Times op-ed today:

So it pains me to say that on his recent trip to Israel, when Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s government rubbed his nose in some new housing plans for contested East Jerusalem, the vice president missed a chance to send a powerful public signal: He should have snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: "Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to focus on building our country."

 I know I have lambasted Friedman in the past, and for good reason. However, in respect of giving credit where it is due, his most recent offering is actually good reading. Perhaps he feels he can be honest with the strange change of winds going on now that is allowing people a free pass to honestly criticize Israel's lack of seriousness when it comes to the peace process. One criticism, however: I think even without immediately turning around and jumping on Air Force Two, Biden (and Clinton and Obama) did send a powerful message disapproving of Israel's intransigence.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The space between

The Foundation for Middle East Peace has an invaluable Israeli settlement database that catalogs everything one could possibly want to know about the Israeli settlement project, all available in an easy to use format. Furthermore, FMEP has compiled peace proposal scenarios complete with maps and figures on how many (and which) settlements would be evacuated according to several different peace scenarios including the Green Line, Camp David, Taba, Geneva, and four different Israeli separation barrier routes. I have been meaning to take a look at how far apart the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating proposals are for a while now and before I do that in this post, I do want to acknowledge that this analysis is based in large part on the maps and statistics painstakingly compiled by FMEP. I take no credit for the maps that will appear below and will attempt to provide links to the information available on FMEP's site when possible.

First off, to answer the question: "What stands in the way of Israeli-Palestinian peace."  Several things: Palestinian factionalism (the split between Hamas and Fateh) is a major obstacle but not an insurmountable one as Hamas has largely shown to be more than willing to cynically sit back and watch Fateh and the Palestinian Authority flounder in peace talks; the lack of direction in U.S. efforts to mediate a solution to the conflict, including the Obama administration's inability to forward any serious proposals or create a more productive agenda for what Israeli-Palestinian talks will include; and the entrenched, expanding Israeli settlement enterprise comprised of 500,00 Israelis beyond the 1967 Green Line living in nearly 150 settlements that comprise roughly 60% of the total area of the West Bank.

In future posts I will explore both Palestinian factionalism and U.S. mediation as they relate to the current state of affairs and the peace process, but today I will concentrate on that peculiar institution, the Israeli settlement project.

Based on longstanding policies and recent statements, it is relatively clear where both the Israeli and Palestinian administrations currently stand regarding the final borders of Israel and Palestine after a successful peace process. The Palestinian Liberation Organization, the negotiating arm of the Palestinian Authority (the PLO does not include Hamas), has repeatedly confirmed that it seeks a Palestinian state on the vast majority of the West Bank, but that it would accept equal land swaps. The PLO seeks a state containing 100% of the area of the West Bank, but is willing to entertain the notion that Israel keep several of its larger, more populous settlements in exchange for Israeli lands that would be annexed to the future Palestinian state. These swapped lands may include a "safe passage corridor" between the Gaza Strip and the southern West Bank, linking the two separated territories of a future Palestinian state. Thus, the Palestinians proposal is based most closely on the Geneva Initiative, an informal, unofficial document drafted by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators following the cancellation of the Taba peace talks in 2001. The Palestinian proposal/Geneva Initiative would divide the West Bank according to the FMEP map below:

Israel would retain the large Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and those close to the Green Line, effectively annexing 3.5% of the West Bank, which would be reconciled by ceding Israeli land equal to the annexed land to a future Palestine. The proposal would require the evacuation of over 100,000 Israeli settlers in 111 settlements. Israel would retain 34 settlements.

In contrast, the proposal described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is based largely on the same one Israel proposed at Camp David. Israel would retain large swaths of the Jordan Valley, most of its medium and large settlements in the West Bank, and a vast envelope of land around Jerusalem. The Palestinian state would be effectively divided into four statelets: Gaza, Nablus-Jenin, Ramallah-Jericho, and Hebron. This proposal is illustrated by the FMEP map below:

In this peace scenario, Israel would evacuate roughly 20,000 settlers from 34 settlements and cede 60% of the West Bank for a future Palestinian state. Below I have prepared a table comparing the current Israeli and Palestinian proposals against the full measure of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

Land and control are just two pieces in the puzzle of finding a sustainable solution to the conflict. Other areas of contention are control over Jerusalem (and especially it's Old City), status and compensation of Palestinian refugees, natural resource rights, and mutual security.

Currently both sides have stated publicly and repeatedly that these two proposals are the bare minimum and most generous offer that their public could accept. The Israeli government maintains that it must retain a permanent military presence in the Jordan Valley, one of the most valuable agricultural areas available to the future Palestinian state, in order to provide early warning against attacks against Israel originating from the east (especially Iran). What is not clear with this assertion is why Israel would need to retain full control over the entire Valley (roughly 20% of the West Bank) in order to maintain an early warning capability. The Geneva Initiative proposed that Israel would be allowed to lease land in 10 year arrangements from the Palestinian Authority to build and maintain early warning radar stations staffed with needed military personnel. The leased areas would be very small, comprising only the necessary equipment to staff and support these stations. When Benjamin Netanyahu asserted two days prior to the start of indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that Israel would need to retain the Jordan Valley, he presented a condition that the Palestinian Authority simply could not accept in a possible peace deal.

One major point to remember is that the conflict is not simply about land, but about control and domination. Again and again, I find one thing that Israeli delegations do not seem to understand is that if a peace deal is going to be concluded, the Israeli government will need to relinquish control of Palestinian areas in the West Bank and end a relationship where the Israeli military dominates the lives of Palestinians. Peace will require the Israeli military to step back and secure its own borders, while allowing the Palestinians freedom inside their newly established borders. Israel will simply not be able to control access between Gaza and Egypt or the West Bank and Jordan if peace is to be established.

The PLO and the vast majority of Palestinians want first and foremost a Palestinian state with full sovereignty over its borders. Palestinians seek to make their own economic and political decisions, establish diplomatic and trade relations with countries on their own terms free of Israeli influence, and provide security within their own borders. The Oslo paradigm which created semi-autonomous Palestinian areas and allowed Palestinians to wave their flag and sing their anthem while being militarily dominated and subjugated by Israel will not produce the kind of sustainable peace needed to increase regional security, promote economic development, and save lives - both Israeli and Palestinian. To make peace, Israel needs to acknowledge that the Palestinians must have a legitimate, fully sovereign state alongside their own.

When Israel went too far

Announcing a decision to build 1600 Jewish-only apartments in East Jerusalem only two days after the Palestinian Liberation Organization had reluctantly decided to rejoin U.S-backed and mediated indirect negotiations will henceforth be known as the day Israel went too far.

Vice President Joe Biden to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu:

"I condemn the decision of the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The announcement is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions I've had here in Israel. This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

"It was insulting. And it was insulting not just to the vice president, who certainly didn't deserve that. He was there with a very clear message of our commitment to the peace process in solidarity with the Israeli people. But it was an insult to the United States. This was a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship and had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process."

P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesperson:

"[Hillary Clinton] made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process."

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu:

"There was a regrettable incident here, that occurred innocently."

Israeli Ambassador to the the United States Michael Oren:

"The crisis was very serious and we are facing a very difficult period in relations. Israel's ties with the U.S. are in the most serious crisis since 1975."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pieces of peace for your weekend

To hold you over for the weekend, I have three very special links for you. As the next 10 days are sure to be extraordinarily busy, I intend to keep the posts up and am looking to keep a quota (for the time being) of 15 posts per month. That way, I won't spam your Google Readers (which you absolutely should be using for its sheer convenience), but you'll also get all the timely news and analysis on the peace process in the Holy Land that I know you crave. Also, don't forget to follow Holy Land Peace on Reader and Twitter.

Now, the content:

Josh Ruebner (great articles are always written by Josh's, right) at the Huffington Post takes Obama to task for promising to cut funding for programs that do not work or that America cannot afford while approving another $3 billion in aid to Israel in the 2011 budget. Ruebner makes a great point that although the Arms Export Control Act stipulates that military aid be used only for "internal security" or "legitimate self defense," American weapons are being used against the provisions of the law. While it is a good article, and I certainly enjoy that he lists that $3 billion could be used to, "provide more than 364,000 low-income households with affordable housing vouchers, or to retrain 498,000 workers for green jobs, or to provide early reading programs to 887,000 at-risk students, or to provide access to primary health care services for more than 24 million uninsured Americans," I think he misses the low-hanging fruit of why American military aid to Israel must be subjected to tighter restrictions. If every American administration has refused to accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, why are U.S. weapons allowed to be used to expand and protect these illegal and unrecognized colonies that steal and annex Palestinian land? It certainly would seem logical to conclude that protecting conquered and illegitimate lands with American weapons does not fall under "internal security" (as the West Bank is outside Israel proper) or "legitimate self defense" (as Israel lacks legitimacy in the areas it is using American weapons to defend). I, like Ruebner believe the U.S. has a moral and security obligation to drastically reduce Israeli, Egyptian, and Saudi military aid until the parties act begin to act in ways that actually benefit American interests. Large portions of these budgets should be transferred to implementing programs that will aid human rights, women's rights, spur economic development, and increase political participation, instead of arming to the teeth dictatorial or aggressive regimes in the region. I have no problem with defensive military assistance (such as missile defense systems) for our partners in the Middle East, as long as they are willing to work with us on finding a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such a reorganization of American foreign assistance to the Middle East would be extremely helpful in defusing violent confrontations and ushering in greater regional collaboration and respect for human rights. Just to make it very clear, Israel's $30 billion package over ten years is the equivalent of cutting a check in the amount of $2500 to every man, woman, and child in Israel. With a recession, massive debt, and a plethora of domestic problems, are we really getting good value for our money?

Next, if you've ever looked at a map of Israel and the West Bank, some may say, "the West Bank does not look all that small, what's the issue?" Mel Frykberg points out that the settlement infrastructure and Area C arrangements exclude Palestinians from a full 40% of the territory of the West Bank, and the scattered nature of the areas Palestinians are allowed to move and live greatly hampers Palestinian economic development. Frykberg also mentions a figure I have not encountered before, but which is immensely illustrative of the Israeli demand that Palestinians live in an environment vastly different and far more oppressive than Israeli settlers. The Israeli Civil Administration (the Israeli governing authority in the West Bank) plans for Palestinian areas envisions a situations where Palestinian villages must live with a population density 11 times that of Israeli villages, and Palestinian cities will be twice as dense as their Israeli counterparts, all due to restrictions meant to keep Palestinian population centers from expanding.

Finally, William Parry reminds us that when asked, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" we are to reply, "In an Israeli prison." He reports on the Israeli effort to crush the Palestinian popular movement against the occupation, Israel's biggest threat to the status quo.

Send me some articles, leave some comments, enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Let's try this one more time..."

Israel and the Palestinian Authority appear ready to attempt to find peace through indirect, U.S-mediated proximity negotiations with the endorsement of such a plan by the Arab League. The meeting of the foreign ministers of 14 Arab nations yesterday agreed to accept in principle talks not to last longer than four months without a tangible breakthrough. U.S. special envoy George Mitchell appears to be slated to mediate the negotiations, which will consist of Mitchell shuttling back and forth between the sides, perhaps with both delegations in different rooms of the same building. These peace talks would be very similar (even including the same U.S. mediator) as the peace talks in Northern Ireland and even the Camp David talks between Egypt and Israel that achieved a peace deal between the two countries.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat explained, "The Arab countries are all not convinced by Netanyahu, but decided to give Obama the chance." This reinforces the notion that Palestinians and other Arab nations see the Obama administration as providing generally fair mediation in the conflict and believe they must pursue the opportunity to work with his administration in Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The purpose of proximity talks is not to conclude a peace agreement but to merely allow for a comprehensive exploration of both sides' positions, concerns, and limits. The talks may include negotiations on how direct talks could begin and how they would be moderated and run. In the past, reports have indicated that the indirect negotiations would first attempt to tackle the question of where to draw the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state as a way to understand core questions about the positions of both sides, and to allow Israeli and Palestinians to build without limit on their respective sides of the borders once it is agreed to.

With the Arab League's endorsement, preparations to begin indirect talks are occurring rapidly, as Haaretz has reported that the negotiations could begin as early as Sunday. The Mideast Quartet (the U.S., UN, Russia, and EU) will also convene a high level meeting to discuss prospects and expectations at the end of March. The Obama administration has indicated it would like negotiations to be underway by Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region on Monday.

Direct negotiations between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert broke down following Olmert's resignation from office following his indictment for corruption.