Nathan Thrall is a Jerusalem-based Senior Analyst with the International Crisis Group. His first book, The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine, will be published in 2017. (September 2016)
There is only one option left to Obama that isn’t seen as unrealistic, unpalatable, or insignificant: to set down the guidelines or “parameters” of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement—on the four core issues of borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem—in a US-supported UN Security Council resolution. Once passed, with US support, it would become international law, binding, in theory, on all future presidents and peace brokers.
Despite the failure of past efforts, many senior US officials who have worked on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have believed that they had a good chance of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement with each new round of negotiations. These officials—as well as the think tanks, NGOs, advocates, journalists, analysts, and former officials that seek to influence them—can be divided into three groups.
Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
by Elliott Abrams
The Future of the Jews: How Global Forces Are Impacting the Jewish People, Israel, and Its Relationship with the United States
by Stuart E. Eizenstat
On a recent Friday, Israel’s highest-rated television station showed a news segment asking if the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not already dead. The answer, as presented in the anchor’s concluding remarks and by most interviewees—left, right, religious, secular—was that two states had become unattainable. As Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed hopes of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—within “two years or it’s over”—he encounters an Israeli public that has never been more skeptical about the prospect of a negotiated settlement.
Cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces has reached unprecedented levels under the quiet direction of a three-star US Army general, Keith Dayton, who has been commanding a little-publicized American mission to build up Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
On June 2, seven years of division between Fatah and Hamas came to an end. Hamas ministers in Gaza surrendered their authority to a new Palestinian government of national consensus, which pledged to adhere to the three principles demanded by the US and its allies as conditions for receiving vital aid. But little has changed in Palestinian relations with the West.
As Israelis and Palestinians embark on a new round of peace talks, critics of Benjamin Netanyahu have expressed doubt that the Israeli prime minister, once a leading opponent of the Oslo Accords, can change his ways. On Monday, a member of the prime minister’s Likud party wrote that “Netanyahu will not offer the Palestinians more than his predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, so it is just a matter of time before these peace talks deadlock as well.” Yet the presumed reticence of Netanyahu and his government to match the offers of their predecessors is among the weaker reasons to doubt Kerry will reach his stated goal of ending the conflict.