It's that time of the decade again, where US, Israeli and Palestinian officials start making noises about a "peaceful solution" between Israel and occupied Palestine.
On the American side, US Secretary of State John Kerry has cut the negotiation ribbon, in hopes of following up on the extensive road map already laid out by former secretaries Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher... and the list goes on.
If the Secretary of State is lucky enough to get something down on paper over the coming months of meetings and negotiations, the US President will then enter the diplomatic theatre, usually over a long weekend at Camp David or a similar venue, and hopefully sign some form of agreement underneath the names of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. In this case, Barrack Obama would be following in the footsteps of his esteemed predecessors, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and others.
Each of these US officials have presided over various and sundry celebrated announcements over the years, each time claiming a "breakthrough" in the peace process, but the peace process has never managed to be any more than that -- a process.
For this reason, peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been viewed as nothing more than an endless talking shop, and have never resulted in implementing anything meaningful in terms of improving the conditions for Palestinians.
The other fundamental problem is the regular flow of money from Israeli lobby groups like AIPAC to political campaigns in Washington DC, and the flow of billions in US "military aid" back to Tel Aviv. On this basis alone, the US cannot really be taken seriously as an objective party in any three-way negotiation.
Whether through the unrelenting hard-line Israeli position, the powerlessness of the Palestinians, or impotence of the US in their role as a paid-off match referee, in each and every instance, Israel has managed to strengthen its position for any future round of talks. In every instance, Israel has done what it set out to do: to bite away at the remaining Palestinian land, drive out Palestinian residents and increase its Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Negev.
Palestinian men climb a section of Israel's separation barrier as they try to avoid crossing Israeli-controlled checkpoints to reach the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 26, 2013, on the third Friday of the holy month of Ramadan (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
The addition of a new piece to the Middle East peace process jigsaw puzzle has added to the confusion, due to its unusual position on the board.
With its headquarters in Jerusalem, "The Quartet" is the new international confab created in 2001 and represents four major bodies -- the US, The EU, Russia and the UN. The appointment of Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Quartet's Special Envoy in 2010, has not exactly inspired confidence in the group's ability to make any significant impact. For from being a neutral player in the process, Blair has stood firmly in defense of Israel's own stoic negotiation stance.
From the beginning of his reign in Jerusalem, Blair has steered the Quartet's position, as evidenced by his speech to the Lauder School of Government in Israel on 24 August 24, 2010, where he condemned the alleged campaign of "delegitimization" said to be carried out by "the enemies of Israel and proponents of the Palestinians, which refuses to grant Israel its legitimate right to its own point of view and self-defense."
"Don't apply rules to the Government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country," he said. He characterized such double standards and prejudice as being an "affront to humanity" which "it is a democratic duty to counter."
He also believes that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "is an advocate of peace."
It's not entirely clear what purpose The Quartet serves, aside from cheering the process along, but as its name demonstrates, it may just be there to provide the background music for what looks like a predetermined, pro-Israeli agenda.
Palestinian protesters throw stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes following a protest against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on June 28, 2013 (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
The West and Israel have been dangling the dream of an independent Palestinian state over the negotiating table for decades now, and with every successive round of talks, the idea of a "Two-State Solution" seems to be become more and more hamstrung, not least because of further colonial expansion and occupation by Israel itself.
Although the Two-State Solution was agreed upon in principle by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the November 2007 meeting at Annapolis, many believe that this approach was set-up to fail, and any talk of a final agreement actually being signed is a political pipe dream. Moreover, even if a Palestinian state were to be recognized, it would be far from independent, as Israel is almost certainly never going to relinquish control over imports, exports, air travel, power, water and capital flows.
Another reason why negotiations are set up to fail could be the UN's recognition of Palestine based on its pre-1967 borders with Israel. On the surface, this may appear to legitimize the Palestinian cause but in actuality, it is a central source of tension between the two sides.