A brief comment on the Israel-Palestinian peace talks. There is no good reason for optimism, and many good reasons for pessimism. For starters, Netanyahu and his far-right coalition will almost certainly not renew the settlement freeze, which will likely lead to the talks collapsing before they get started. Between Netanyahu’s intransigence, Abbas’s weakness, the absence of Hamas, my fears of Obama’s cluelessness and deftlessness, and issues such as Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, which in the current context, seem unresolvable, it is easy to see ways for the talks to fall apart quickly. And at the various Oslos we have seen talks fall apart in the past, when the auspices were considerably brighter than they are now.
And yet the alternative is what, precisely? The Palestinians will not improve their bargaining position by not talking. I am deeply skeptical about the basic interest in the Israeli government and the increasingly conservative Israeli public in peace. And yet if there is hope of progress without mutual bludgeoning and bloodletting, the talks will be an absolute desideratum.
I see no chance that the Palestinians will get what they want from Israel, a final, permanent settlement of all outstanding issues. The talks will certainly end ambiguously, and it seems more and more likely the settlement of the Israel-Palestinian question will be ambiguous as well, neither a one or two state solution, but more of a one and a half state solution, or a two and a half state solution, with a de facto Palestinian state (or states ) unilaterally declared by the Palestinians. And the current negotiations, with an implicit if grudging recognition of the new reality by the US, would be the most likely positive outcome of the current talks. With Rob, if we look to Irish precedents, let us consider the famous words of Yeats:
What rough beast, its hour come at last
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?