Spokesmen from both the White House and the State Department have vowed to press on with US ambitions for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by the end of the year, but the prospect seems all but dead with Israeli President Shimon Peres settling February 10, 2009 as the date for the new Israeli elections.
Indeed both Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheelrit and National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer have called for negotiations to be entirely frozen until after the election. In addition to the Palestinian negotiations, indirect talks with Syria are likely to also be affected by the election campaign.
Earlier polls suggested that Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party would return to power in the election, but the most recent poll shows him neck-and-neck with Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party, which had been behind the peace push. Netanyahu has been critical of the peace process with the Palestinians from the beginning and has taken an even more negative view of the talks with Syria. In spite of these obstacles, President Peres said today that he believes Israel is closer to peace now than ever before.