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Don’t hold your breath …

02/09/2010

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have resumed in Washington. However, to say that I’m holding my breath and expecting a breakthrough would be an exaggeration, to say the least.

I think that two important indicators could signal to us when this all turns into a serious exercise:

The first would be a new coalition in Israel. My impression is that, by now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands – intellectually – that the occupation must come to an end. But politically he isn’t ready for a change; his current coalition government is composed of parties and individuals (see my previous post ‘No Peace, I’m afraid‘) who are just too right-wing to accept a deal with a two-state solution at its heart. Thus, any progress on the peace process will require a new government in Israel. This could be achieved either through new elections, or a change of the coalition’s composition.

The second indicator would be a willingness of President Barack Obama to intervene personally in the negotiations and put pressure on Israel. As I’ve already put it in ‘It has nothing to do with my rude comment about balls’, the lesson of history is that the Israelis only move under pressure, and the one who could apply the necessary pressure on them is the President.

Alas, President Obama is up to his eyes with domestic and other problems, and I don’t really expect him to press the Israelis, at least until after the US midterm elections in November.

In the meantime, extremists will try to sabotage the peace talks. The other day, a Palestinian attack on an Israeli car near Hebron killed four settlers. It’s unlikely that this will, and perhaps
other attacks, derail the talks and, anyway, we shouldn’t expect any significant progress at this stage.