Until now the Obama administration has clung to the basic assumptions of the Oslo process: incremental steps on both sides build the confidence necessary to negotiate a bilateral agreement on final-status issues such as borders, Jerusalem and refugees. Plainly that approach has failed so far, and it’s hard to see it succeeding simply because there is a new cast of actors in the lead roles. The problem may be in the script rather than the casting.
There is no domestic political pressure on Netanyahu to make the territorial compromises necessary for a deal. On the contrary, his once precarious domestic political position has been strengthened by his resistance to the settlement freeze demands, and Israelis are unlikely to accept the conflict that would erupt if their government tried to evict thousands of West Bank settlers under a peace agreement. Nor are the Palestinians inclined to make compromises that the refugees would consider surrender of their rights.
In the absence of domestic pressure on either side to force a compromise, restarting talks would be either a repeat of the Annapolis failure or a demonstration that the gap between the two sides cannot be bridged by mutual consent. Either way, the parameters of a two-state solution will have to be prescribed by the international community, just as they were in 1947 – except this time with enough international clout and domestic support to prevent a repeat of the tragedy that followed the last UN partition of Palestine. [continued…]