Do we think these talks will go anywhere? Two indications that the Israelis mean them to be pure window-dressing:
1. On the eve of Biden's visit, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and John Hagee Share Stage as Biden Arrives in Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and John Hagee have again spit in the eye of peace process attempts. There was no doubt about the significance of the timing and the message of the event. The messages were blatant and brazen, including a number of coded references to the eventual Christian supremacy over Israel which were included in both Hagee's speech and more shockingly in the invocation of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Whether Riskin understands the implications of his words to that particular audience is unclear.Netanyahu and Hagee did this before, when he was prime minister in 1998:
In 1998 Netanyahu had traveled to the U.S. to meet with President Bill Clinton concerning peace efforts. However, before meeting with Clinton, Netanyahu spoke to hundreds of Christian Zionists assembled by Jerry Falwell and John Hagee at the Mayflower Hotel. In a blatant snub of Clinton and the peace efforts, John Hagee led the crowd in chants of "not one inch," referring to no withdrawal from the West Bank settlements. With little fanfare and almost no press coverage, Netanyahu and Hagee have pulled the same stunt again.2. The Israeli Interior Ministry's Regional Planning and Building Commission just approved today the building of 1600 more homes in Ramat Shlomo, a haredi neighborhood in East Jerusalem. This is of course on top of other announcements of continued Israeli building in Jerusalem neighborhoods over the Green Line (an announcement of additional housing units in Beitar Illit was made yesterday), and the large-scale entry of Jewish settlers into Sheikh Jarrah and other nearby neighborhoods of Arab east Jerusalem.
In reaction, "Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the move, saying it was destroying trust needed to go forward with the new round of indirect peace talks, which the two sides agreed this week would take place under the mediation of US envoy George Mitchell. 'With such an announcement, how can you build trust? This is destroying our efforts to work with Mr. Mitchell," Erekat said. "It's a really disastrous situation. I hope that this will be an eye-opener for all in the international community about the need to have the Israeli government stop such futile exercises.'"
For a thoroughly depressing report on the recent developments, see today's New York Times article: As Biden visits, Israel unveils plan for new settlements.