I’ve spent a lot of time studying and writing about Middle East politics. I care a lot about the issue. And I find it quite impossible to register even an iota of interest in the talks proceeding in Washington now.
Does anyone think that the current Israeli government is prepared to make meaningful concessions on settlements and territory?
Does anyone think that the Palestinian Authority is prepared to make meaningful concessions on refugees?
And if the answer to either of these questions is no — which they must be — then why do we even care about this?
It seems to me that the Obama Administration is doing this not because of any chance of a breakthrough or even meaningful progress, but rather so it can show its Arab allies that it is “doing something” about the problem. And these Arab allies want this, so that they can say that they are “doing something” about the Palestinians. It’s all a cynical game, brought about by the obsolete view that direct negotiations can accomplish something. I don’t blame Obama for this in the least: that’s the way that the diplomatic game is played.
But no one else should be fooled. This isn’t about peace: it’s about the peace process. If anyone was serious about peace, they would have advanced Sari Nusseibeh’s Plan for taking the issue to Israelis and Palestinians. They’re not, so they haven’t. End of story.