Protesters in the West Bank express solidarity with the hunger-strikers Saturday.(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/GettyImages)
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Statement Offers Rare Peace Process Hope

Has unity coalition loosened Netanyahu?

Marc Tracy
May 14, 2012
Protesters in the West Bank express solidarity with the hunger-strikers Saturday.(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/GettyImages)

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent President Abbas a letter and the two even issued a brief joint statement. According to Haaretz (snazzy redesign, guys!), for the first time Netanyahu formally committed himself to what he has said for three years he is okay with: a demilitarized Palestinian state. For all the inevitable skepticism, it’s the least-dead the peace process has been since the short direct talks of the late summer 2010, or perhaps even the secret talks of 2008. And coming as it does shortly after the formation of Israel’s national-unity government, in which the more centrist Kadima was brought into the coalition, it has the air of credibility to it.

Also this weekend, Netanyahu pressured members of his own party—in a sign that with the new coalition he feels more secure leading a Likud Party that is to the right of himself—to block a bill that would apply Israeli civil instead of military law to settlements, effectively annexing them. It’s a real setback for Rep. Joe Walsh, Republican from Illinois, who advocates a full-on one-state solution. And it’s something of a victory for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who apparently has come to see himself as something like a Moses, in the sense of leading his people to the mountaintop but not crossing the river with them. “There will come a time when an Israeli leadership has to sell an agreement to its public,” Fayyad told The New Republic‘s Ben Birnbaum. “Imagine how much easier it would be for that leadership if it’s able to assert to the public, ‘What is the argument about? It’”—a Palestinian state—“’exists already.’”

Of course, this could all unravel very quickly. Some of the Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners are approaching 80 days, and while a deal is said to be imminent, one hasn’t been reached yet. And tomorrow is Nakba Day. It could be bad, it could be hopeful, and most likely it will be just another Tuesday.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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