The latest word is Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are expected in Washington early next week to begin talking about talking. They’re not coming to negotiate peace but to discuss about the shape of the table, what diplomats call a “framework” for negotiations.
Even the most optimistic, those with the highest hopes, have low expectations. They’re not convinced Netanyahu and Abbas are ready or able to take the risks or make the difficult, historic decisions necessary for peace.
The big question hanging over both Netanyahu and Abbas, and the one raised in my Washington Watch column, is whether they are in for peace or process.
Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea has written, “The gap between the goals of each of the sides is vast; the mutual suspicion is great and, unfortunately, justified…. An agreement will be reached only when the price of not reaching an agreement will be higher than the price of foot-dragging.”
Both leaders have strong incentive to make the right sounds — stay in Washington’s good graces — but is it enough to get them to make the right moves?
The greatest opposition Netanyahu will face will come from within his right wing governing coalition and his own Likud party, which is increasingly dominated by the settler movement and its backers. Few are more outspoken than Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who just won a Likud leadership post Netanyahu would have liked for himself. Danon opposes Palestinian statehood and has said Netanyahu couldn’t get a majority of his coalition or party to back him.
Whatever problems Netanyahu faces, and they are not insignificant, the underlying obstacle to peace is that many in the Palestinian movement in general and Abbas in particular are loathe to being accused of being responsible for giving away part of the Palestinian patrimony to the Jews.
The latest chapter in this saga will begin to unfold next week and is scheduled to continue for the next nine months. That deadline looks like it was designed to give the Palestinians a chance to take their grievances to the 2014 session of the United Nations General Assembly if the talks don’t meet their expectations.