John Kerry in final push to disprove skeptics on Middle East peace deal

AnalysisThe Guardian reports: Kerry announced the start of a new peace process in July – itself the product of intensive negotiations – flanked by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, beneath the chandeliers of the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Room in Washington. “I believe that history is not made by cynics,” he declared. “It is made by realists who are not afraid to dream.”

The goal Kerry set for the talks had defeated previous secretaries of state and presidents: a peace agreement, based on a resolution of every single major issue that has divided Israel and Palestine for decades. And he wanted it secured within just nine months.

The 68th secretary of state had by then already acquired a reputation for grandiose speeches; privately, some diplomats began asserting that his self-belief could border on hubris.

Now some of his critics say they are being proved right. “It does not seem to me the talks are going well,” said Elliott Abrams, a former White House advisor who worked on the Israel-Palestine conflict under George W Bush’s administration. “The secretary went into this initially with the goal of a final status agreement. It is very clear that that is impossible. He maybe has a rabbit in his hat. But I doubt it.”

Much of the scepticism is born from the fact Kerry’s ambitious talk of the all-encompassing “final status agreement” has, for some months now, been replaced with more modest noises about a getting the sides to endorse a set of basic principles for further talks.

Others say that persuading both sides to agree to a “framework deal” will be a remarkable achievement given the wide gaps between them thus far, and could lead to further progress. “A framework agreement is a logical part of trying to get to a final, comprehensive agreement,” said a senior US administration official close to the process.

But, clearly, the goalposts have shifted. Gone is the promise of a wide-ranging final agreement, achieved in one go; instead, the US has settled on a step-by-step approach. [Continue reading…]

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