The easiest thing to do right now is to declare the direct peace talks, which officially are currently stalled, actually completely over barely after they began: A victim of (depending on whom you’d prefer to blame) Israel’s stubborn refusal to extend its settlement freeze; the Palestinian Authority’s unreasonable, ex post facto demand that Israel extend its settlement freeze; the United States’s focus on settlements; Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition; President Abbas’s status as an unpopular, rump leader; the Israeli public’s insistence on security guarantees based on their interpretation of what happened after the Gaza withdrawal; the Palestinian public’s warm feelings toward the maximalist claims of Hamas; and on and on. The Washington Post published the conventional wisdom-articulating article this Sunday, and it was convincing. You should read the whole thing; you will feel up-to-date.
And yet! To float a counter-intuitive #slatepitches, maybe, under the radar, the U.S. is still trying to cut a deal, and their efforts may yet pay off? That is the between-the-lines sense one could get from a speech Dennis Ross, a top administration Mideast adviser, gave to AIPAC yesterday. The prepared remarks mostly concerned Iran—”Iran’s own behavior over the past two years, however, has demonstrated that it prefers defiance and secrecy to transparency and peace,” Ross declared—but, toward the end, Ross had this to say about the peace process: “Frankly, this degree of coordination is unprecedented. I have participated in these types of discussions for the last 30 years, and they have never been as intense or focused, reflecting the serious cooperation that we have today with Israel.” He added, in an implicit nod to the controversial doctrine of linkage, “No one should underestimate the strategic importance of peace for Israelis, for Palestinians, and for the United States.” Don’t you think that if the talks were truly a lost cause for a good long while, a top administration point-man wouldn’t continue to play them up?
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.