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Israeli Forces Destroy West Bank Mosque as Peace Talks Deadline Passes

After nine months of negotiating, the two participants failed to even agree on an extension to talks.

by John Beck
Apr 29 2014, 11:05pm

Photo via AP/Nasser Ishtayeh

Today marks the deadline of the Israeli and Palestinian peace talks, but the space between the two sides now looks even further away than ever.

That gap was highlighted this morning, when Israeli forces demolished a mosque and other buildings in a Palestinian village and a watchdog announced that “record numbers” of settlements in Palestinian claimed territories had been authorized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government since the talks began.

After nine months of negotiating, the two participants failed to even agree on an extension to talks.

Even the mediators seem to have given up.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who spearheaded the discussions, has embarked on a diplomatic trip, while the US envoy for Middle East peace Martin Indyk, has packed up and gone home, with no plans to return in the near future.

The entire process had been suspended since last week after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah announced that it would join up with Hamas to form a unity government.

Hamas and Fatah are BFFs again — but that's not why the peace talks failed. Read more here.

West Bank Mosque Demolished
The mosque was demolished along with several other buildings, including three family homes in the Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Taweel in the occupied West Bank this morning.

Six bulldozers, backed by hundreds of soldiers, flattened the structures because they were built without hard to obtain Israeli permits, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, watchdog group Peace Now said that the Israeli government had promoted plans and tenders for 13,851 new homes for Israeli settlers on land Palestinians want for a future state since the peace talks began. That averages out at an unprecedented 350 housing units per week.

Settlement building has been one of the major stumbling blocks to talks, with pissed off Palestinians demanding a stop to the construction process as a condition of peace talks, and Israel adamantly refusing.

Palestinians are being forced to destroy their own homes. Read more here.

Failure of Talks
Both Kerry, as well US President Barack Obama, has said the failure of the talks was a result of actions from both sides.

Israel had previously walked back on a promise to release a group of Palestinian prisoners, while the Palestinians attempted to sign up for a number of UN conventions, having said they would not do any such thing during talks.

Anthony H. Cordesman, a frequent consultant to US State and Defense Departments and holder of the Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told VICE News that the talks never had a high likelihood of success.

"You have to say is there was a chance… but both sides had demands which simply couldn't be met. The Israelis had the settlement issue and Palestinians, had internal divisions within their own camps," Cordesman said.

Exchanging prisoners for peace is a bad deal for Palestine. Read more here.

Cordesman does not expect a restart in talks anytime soon, especially while both camps remain so entrenched in their respective policies.

“I think it's going to be very hard to restart this in the near future, because both the Israeli and Palestinian positions have become relatively polarized, it's hard for them to then back off and reach a new position,” he said. “Every time you make it to the point of hard decision-making, you also reach the point where both sides tend to be exhausted and the end result is that both tend to back away from what is going on.”

He added that each side’s internal issues would also be worsened by the collapse of the discussions.

“The question of the future of the Palestinian movement, and the divisions within Israeli politics are both certainly worse now that the talks have broken down," he said.

Kerry's "Apartheid State" Comment
Kerry has invested a great deal of time and effort in the peace talks, and on Friday warned that Israel could become an “apartheid state” during a closed-door meeting with world leaders, according to a recording obtained by the Daily Beast.

Unsurprisingly, the remarks proved controversial.

The American Israel Public Affairs described them as "offensive and inappropriate" and insisted he apologize.

Others went further.

Senator Ted Cruz demanded that Kerry resign, for what he described as "a shocking lack of sensitivity to the incendiary and damaging nature of his rhetoric."

Kerry responded with a statement Monday saying that in his more than 30 years in the US Senate he had always “walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight” in his support of Israel.

He went on to attack “partisan, political” motives for questioning of his commitment and described Israel is a “vibrant democracy.”

He did not, however, say sorry but Kerry appears dedicated to working towards a two-party solution despite deep-seated divisions.

"I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution," he said in the statement.

And as Cordesman points out, someone has to, no matter how unlikely an immediate agreement looks.

“The question you have to ask yourself,” he says. “Is that if we don't keep trying, then we will create a certainty of failure.”