Following the latest wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, at the end of February UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland appealed for both sides to take action towards addressing core issues fuelling their conflict.
Tension and violence between Israel and Palestine has been increasing over the past few months. At least 62 Palestinians, including armed fighters and civilians, have been killed so far this year, as well as 12 Israelis.
At about the same time as Mr Wennesland was speaking, high-level officials from the two sides met in Jordan to discuss ways of defusing tensions. These were the first such talks in years and came ahead of the holy month of Ramadan which, it is feared, could precipitate an even wider conflict. Both sides expressed readiness and commitment to work together immediately to prevent further violence, but their words had little immediate effect on the ground.
The positive outcomes were that the Israeli officials committed to halting settlement construction in the West Bank for the next four months, although existing plans for Israelis to build more than 7,000 new housing units, illegal under international law, are expected to go ahead after the freeze, as well the retroactive legalisation of nine outposts built by settlers without the permission of the Israeli government.
The statement also said both sides would revive efforts towards reaching a “just and lasting peace” deal in the decades-old conflict.
However, the talks were condemned by people from both sides. Israel has a newly-elected far-right government some of whose members are opposed to the proposed moves and are instead determined to totally annex the West Bank and relax the rules of engagement for Israel’s police and soldiers. Likewise several Palestinian groups urged the Palestinian Authority to withdraw from the talks.