As tensions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza ratchet up John Kerry, the 168th US Secretary of State, has watered his optimistic "final agreement" for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict down to an interim "framework agreement", and even that is looking increasingly problematic as both the Israeli and Palestinian government continue to attack Kerry.
When this latest round of peace talks began in July, 2013, the White House laid out a nine-month period for establishing a final agreement to bring an end to one of the longest and most retracted conflicts in the region. The agreement was meant to be reached at the end of April following the fourth stage of a Palestinian prisoner release agreement due at the end of March.
However, the American diplomat has warned that the release of the prisoners may be dependent on the Palestinians signing a framework agreement while the Palestinians have warned that if the release does not go ahead that will end negotiations.
Kerry is thought to believe that if his efforts do not bear fruit by then the negotiations will break down, either due to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's refusal to release Arab prisoners who are Israeli citizens or due to an anticipated surge of construction in the settlements in response to the prisoner release. This could cause the Palestinians to abandon the talks and renew their unilateral actions through the United Nations.
Both the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have dug their heels in over a number of issues that they both claim are red lines that they are unwilling to cross. While the two teams disagree on almost every issue, there is one issue over which they are united and that is that they believe Kerry is biased in favour of the other side and his attempts at reconciliation will lead to nothing and that the peace talks are basically a waste of time.
Several of the red lines include Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a condition that Israel never demanded of Jordan and Egypt when it signed peace agreements with those two countries.
Israel is already a de facto Jewish state with legislation that favours Jewish citizens over other minorities, particularly Israeli-Arabs. The Palestinians argue that recognising Israel as such would infringe on Israel's Arab minority and the refugees' right of return.
Israel's continued settlement building is also a major source of anger and frustration for the Palestinians...