I do wish Sec. Kerry the best in his efforts.
Unfortunately the evidence seems to me that all three sides in the recent shuttle diplomacy have domestic reasons to agree to talk about talks, but no more than that.
Mr Kerry and the Obama Administration is under pressure to do something about the bloodletting in the Middle East. There is nothing that the US can do in Syria, Libya and Egypt to stop the bloodshed, so Israel-Palestinian negotiations fulfil a useful and relatively harmless alternative.
Mr Abbas on the other hand has to maintain funding from the US, EU and NGO’s. If he stonewalls he could lose this funding or have it cut back, which would be disastrous for the PA and PLO.
Mr Netanyahu, who likewise has to keep the US more or less on side, also has domestic considerations: he has to keep the centrists in his coalition happy, and one of the demands of Tzipi Livni was to negotiate with the Palestinians. Netanyahu knows that nothing will come of it though, so he can afford to offer to negotiate. And indeed Mr Erekat said last week that no talks can happen until settlement construction stops: ie not much change from before Kerry’s initiative.
It would be marvelous if Mr Kerry could crack this conundrum, but I think it will not happen this time. Sadly for both the Israeli and Palestinian governments the domestic downside is too politically dangerous for them to attempt anything real.
That sounds about right to me, but I’d also reinforce it with one of Mr. Garfinkle’s bullet points: the fact that nothing *real* is likely to be accomplished doesn’t mean that talks (or talks about talks) can’t result in something positive. I think there’s enough reason to support cautious diplomacy here.
Can you point me to some more reading on how stronger US ties to Israel are the most effective way of advancing the negotiations? I think I agree with you about this point, but I’d like to learn more about the arguments. In my own view, Israel wouldn’t particularly care if they became an international pariah at this stage of the game, simply because they’re by and far the most powerful force in the region. Therefore all the “realists” and “do-gooders” out there who advocate threatening to cut them loose are overstating the amount of influence the US can have by threatening them. Thus, the best way to get Israel to negotiate is to bend over backwards for their sincere trust.