Earlier this morning, Reuters reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to enter peace talks with the controversial/not controversial (depends on whom you ask) 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations. In exchange, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was apparently willing to make the controversial/not controversial (depends on whom you ask) concession that Israel is a Jewish state. The initial report was quickly denied by Netanyahu’s office and the latest word is that the Palestinians are delaying their decision on whether to enter peace negotiations until tomorrow, when it is expected that the two sides will agree to begin peace negotiations.
Are you tired yet? Imagine how John Kerry must feel.
What we do know is that these concessions were the concessions both sides were probably going to have to make all along in order to put the framework for a viable two-state solution on the table. The fact that the gap between the two sides have narrowed “very significantly” shows that maybe, despite all our (my) cynicism, the Sisyphean/Herculean (depends on whom you ask) efforts by American diplomats may have yielded a breakthrough.
I know what some of you are thinking: Does getting Netanyahu and Abbas in a room together really constitute a breakthrough given that the record on peace talks? Yes. While the two are said to speak regularly on the phone, they’ve not met to talk about peace since 2010. A lot has happened since then, mostly to the detriment of conditions for peace negotiations. While the Arab League signed off on the peace efforts yesterday, plenty of other obstacles, including the European Union’s symbolic gutslap earlier this week, have given plenty of people reason to doubt that any sustained campaign to bring to the two sides together would bear fruit. It still might not happen.