Anyone who is honest about the Israel/Palestinian conflict recognizes at this juncture that the current round of peace talks has failed. President Obama may wish to keep the blunt reality under wraps at this time out of domestic political considerations, but the truth cannot be disguised.
As we have contended from the outset, the talks never had a chance of succeeding. Neither Mahmoud Abbas nor Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to pay the price that an agreement would have entailed.
The Palestinians have yet to give up their fantasy of repatriating the descendants of the refugees of 1948 to their ancestral homes and Israel’s present coalition government would never have been willing to divide Jerusalem, uproot settlements and repeat the trauma that resulted from the evacuation of Gush Katif in the summer of 2005.
While it is convenient to accuse Netanyahu of being responsible for the current impasse, the truth is that most Israelis have become used to living with the status quo. Experience has shown that relinquishing territory does not necessarily bring peace, so why take the risk?
Of course, it is easy to blame the US Administration for the failure of the peace talks. President Obama turned the question of a moratorium on construction into an issue, which it had not been. Understandably, the Palestinians latched onto this as a precondition for negotiations. His “tough love” approach towards Netanyahu only served to alienate much of the Israeli public and make them suspicious of his true motives.
However, the primary responsibility for the failure of the talks lies not in Washington but in the Middle East. Some years ago, the then German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer, said that it looked like each side would need to shed more blood before it would be prepared to make the concessions that a peace agreement would require.
Since then, alas, little has changed, and with the strengthening alliance between Turkey and Syria and the growing influence and power of Iran in the region, Fischer may well have been right when he wrote back in 2008 that “The Middle East is drifting towards a new great confrontation.” (see http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/fischer26/English)
We can only hope that our political leaders will have the good sense to prevent it from occuring.