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April 02, 2014 5:11 PM End of Mideast Peace Talks?

By Ed Kilgore

Wondering if the news from the Middle East was a bad as it sounded, I read John Judis’ assessment at TNR and got depressed:

As I read the news today, the Doors’ song, “The End,” kept playing in my mind. “This is the end … the end of an elaborate plan.” Maybe it isn’t the end of American peace efforts, but it sure looks like it. Abbas was the most moderate leader that the Israelis have ever had to negotiate with, but Netanyahu was not ready to make a deal—his coalition itself was too divided—and the Obama administration was not willing to put the kind of pressure on him that might have led him to act boldly. Kerry deserves credit for initiating the negotiations—I doubt that without him, Obama would have done anything in his second term—but Kerry was largely on his own. There was little sign that Obama was willing to risk the furor that would greet any attempt to press Netanyahu hard to make concessions. So Kerry followed a familiar diplomatic script—shuttling between the sides, interminable discussions between teams of negotiators, frameworks, deadlines—but, sadly and perhaps predictably, it does not look like the play will have a happy ending.

In Judis’ account, the failed effort to get Netanyahu to go through with an earlier commitment to a Palestinian prisoner release and a freeze on new housing construction for settlers in the occupied territories, even with the added bonus of the possible release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, all but guaranteed the on-its-last-legs PA would go back on its promise not to seek international recognition. Indeed, Bibi is the only party to the negotiations who is probably happy with how things have turned out:

Netanyahu has now outfoxed Kerry, as he earlier outfoxed Obama. He has probably spared himself a nasty battle with the “greater Israel” wing of his Likud party, led by Danny Danon, and with Naftali Bennett’s settler-based Jewish Home party. He could face dissent from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. I don’t know the intricacies of Israeli party politics well enough to say what the near future holds. Israel’s challenge from rejecting a two-state solution will be in the mid- or long-term, and will come from a destabilized and violent West Bank and from economic boycotts and sanctions abroad.

I’d say that’s a much worse prospectus than the usual “back to the drawing board” conclusion we usually get when Middle Eastern talks hit yet another stumbling block.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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