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Middle East

Kerry looks to revive two state solution

media U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at Chatham House in London, Britain October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Israel delayed a vote this Wednesday on permits for settler homes at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to give a speech on his vision for peace in the Middle East.

John Kerry's position

Well Kerry is expected to outline guidelines on how the peace-process could be restarted, without getting too specific,"Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations said.

"We need to acknowledge that the peace process, under its Oslo configuration has failed. The two state solution however is still alive. So through Kerry's initiative, the emphasis is not so much on trying to restart negociations in the short term, but rather to defend the long-term viability of the two states solution."

Experts say US President Barack Obama and Kerry want to leave t a mark on the Israel-Palestine peace process, before Donald Trump takes office in a month.

Trump has alredady signaled he will take a much softer line, nominating an ambassador who wants to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump's role

Israel's right-wing has already welcomed his election.

"It appears that Mr Trump wants to move the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem," says Karim Emile Bittar, an expert with the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

"This will create unprecented havoc in the Middle East. It's a very charged decision that will be rejected by most countries in the region. There's not Trump doctrine or Trump's strategy."

Nonetheless, Kerry's speech is yet another cause of worry for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last Friday, the UN security council voted a resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territory.

It passed thanks to the US abstaining, a first since 1979.

The move was strongly condemned by the Israeli authorities and this Wednesday it appeared they were softening their stance after Netanyahu delayed a local vote on settlement permits.

"I think they want to try not to pour more gasoline on the fire," says Hugh Lovatt. "The key word here is delayed. This steps are anticipated to go forward once Donald Trump reaches the White House. Let's not forget that there is continued settlement activity elsewhere in the West Bank."

While a Jerusalem planning committee postponed requests for building permits for nearly 500 homes in east Jerusalem, it did approve the building in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan.

The White House's role

France will hold an international Middle East peace conference on January 15, but it will be hard to revive the talks, and the idea of a two state solution with such a short deadline.

"What is important is to reignite the peace process at the European level," says Karim Emile Bittar. "John Kerry is offering support to this conference. This could be significant, because if Donald Trump decides to focus on domestic issues, Europe and the International community could play a bigger role."

Finding a solution won't be easy.

One of the sticking point is Israeli settlements... Settlements built on land the Palestinians view as part of their future state and seen as illegal under international law.

Some 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

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