It wasn’t long before the Israelis and Palestinians rained all over the State Department’s parade. Following the weekend’s welcome news that peace talks may resume, the two sides spent yesterday “play[ing] down…the prospects of their envoys meeting in Washington any time soon”, says Reuters:
Palestinians said negotiations could not begin unless it was clear in advance that they would be about a future state based on pre-1967 borders, while an Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would seek the approval of his cabinet before going ahead. […]
The talks would be aimed at resuming negotiations stalled since 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building on land Palestinians seek for a state.
But an Israeli official said “it looks like negotiations will begin only next week, not this week.
As we’ve said, the impulse among many is to scoff at Secretary Kerry’s accomplishments as paltry and his setbacks as predictable. But the Secretary is not engaged in an entirely vain endeavor: concessions and consensus, however small, can contribute to improvement for both peoples, if only at the margins. In any case, with Egypt and Syria ablaze, the last thing the US needs is a Palestinian government feeling neglected, frustrated and forgotten.
From the outside, at least, it seems that Secretary Kerry has demonstrated skill in rebuilding some trust in the US from both sides, and that he has made it clear that even as the world tugs at America from myriad directions, the hopes and concerns of Israelis and Palestinians still matter to this country. His has been rhetoric backed by serious effort, and we applaud him for it.
That said, we remain about as far from a final peace now as we’ve ever been. As long as the administration sees the conflict as a tertiary issue in the Middle East, from which we can hope to extract minor albeit important progress, we’ll be ok. If it remains the focus of US diplomacy to the exclusion of other, more important concerns, US policy in the region will wind up looking worse than it already does.
[Photo courtesy Getty Images.]