Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Shootings overshadow Middle East peace talks

By Sarah Smith

Updated on 01 September 2010

Dozens of Hamas members have been arrested across the West Bank after the shooting of four Jewish settlers. Channel 4 News Washington Correspondent Sarah Smith says the attacks threaten to overshadow the start of fresh peace talks.

Mahmoud Abbass and Barack Obama ahead of Middle East talks (Reuters)

As Middle East leaders gather in Washington for the first face-to-face Israeli/Palestinian peace talks in over two years, there is only one topic of conversation.

The Hamas attack on the West Bank on Tuesday in which four Israeli settlers were shot – including one pregnant woman.

The White House had hoped that a noticeable lessening of violence in recent months would make the time right for a new round of negotiations. But this attack goes straight to the top of the agenda. And it has been roundly condemned by President Barack Obama, by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbass – who was in a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when he heard the news.

Events like this underscore the reasons why no one in Washington is prepared to invite Hamas to join these talks. But it is difficult to see how they are going to come up with a long term solution if they don’t eventually involve the elected representatives of the people of Gaza.

No one is expecting a major breakthrough to come out of these talks in Washington on Thursday anyway. Its is considered an achievement in itself just to get the two sides to sit down together. It is far too early to expect them to also agree on anything.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama ahead of Middle East talks (Credit: Reuters) But there is one pressing problem that will need to be addressed quite quickly. On 26 September a 10-month-old Israeli moratorium on settlement building will come to an end. If that building freeze is not extended indefinitely the Palestinians say they will walk out of the talks. Yet the Israelis steadfastly reject any extension. Sorting this issue out before the end of this month will be the American mediator’s first job.

If they fail then this tentative round of talks could be over almost before it has begun. If they succeed then they can claim an early victory that may inspire some hope in the process and create a positive environment for the negotiations to continue. The Obama administration says they want this process wrapped up within 12 months.

Before the official talks begin on Thursday President Obama is hosting a private dinner in the White House residence for the Israeli PM and the Palestinian President along with President Hosni Mubarak from Egypt and Jordan’s King Abdullah. And joining them for dinner will be Tony Blair, attending in his capacity as the special envoy of the Middle East Quartet.

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest International politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Living with the Taliban

Taliban on the Afghan frontline

A rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline.

Pakistan appeal


Actor Art Malik on why he is fronting the DEC's flood appeal.

Tackling Taliban IEDs


Bomb disposal soldiers on lonely walk to defuse bombs.


Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.