The Kerry round of peace talks has come to a halt, at least for the time being and possibly until there is a new cast of leaders in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Washington.
Success, it has been said, has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Not this time. There is abundant blame — or responsibility — to go around several times.
It starts with a new secretary of state who thought he knew how to do what no one else could. From his perch of many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry was convinced he knew how to shape a peace agreement, and he might have had a chance with different players in Israel and Palestine.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas never trusted each other – and they weren't that happy with Barack Obama, either — and the problem only got worse over time. They seemed to many to be more intent on avoiding blame for the collapse of the Kerry talks than in achieving peace.
Each man had formed a government that seemed guaranteed to prevent peace. Netanyahu's own Likud party was and remains so deeply divided that while the PM says he supports the two-state approach, he has never asked his party much less his coalition to endorse that position. He knows he'd probably lose if he tried.
Abbas knows that demanding full right of return for refugees is a non-starter, but he has never had the courage to tell that to the Palestinian people; instead he has continued to promise them the impossible.
And he was fully aware that creating a unity government with Hamas would be the ultimate poison pill. Israel and the United States would not deal with a Palestinian Authority that included the terrorist group that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and repeatedly calls for its destruction.
There's a classic Catch 22 surrounding the Palestinian reconciliation agreement. It can be argued that if the Palestinians — Fatah and Hamas — can't make peace with each other, how can they make peace with Israel, while on the other hand, if they make peace with each other, they can't — by virtue of Hama's rejectionist positions — make peace with Israel.
Read more about it in my Washington Watch column.