Why an Israeli-Palestinian Deal is Still Unlikely
It might seem that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is likelier now than at any point in the past several years. Secretary of State John Kerry has just been on his 10th trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories in less than a year (in contrast, Hillary Clinton visited just five times in four years). Israel's strong desire to keep the U.S. on board in the event of a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran has made it more willing to make concessions.
Yet a peace agreement is unlikely, for the simple reason that the maximum the Israelis are willing to concede is still less than the minimum the Palestinians are willing to accept. The Palestinians also continue inciting hatred against Israel, and against Jews in general, through official channels--hardly a sign of preparation for peace. In addition, the Palestinians remain divided among Fatah and Hamas. The latter will likely reject any agreement.
It is increasingly clear that the Palestinians have little to offer Israel. Critics once said that there was no military solution to the intifada, but that was wrong: the security barrier in and along the West Bank ended almost all suicide bombings inside Israel. The disengagement from Gaza in 2005 may have led, inadvertently, to two wars, but Israel gained the upper hand through sophisticated air strikes and new missile defense technologies.
The real negotiations are not those between Israel and the Palestinians, but between Israel and the Obama administration, which clings to a solution to the conflict as its top foreign policy priority, likely for reasons of vanity and "legacy." The issue of a hypothetical Palestinian state is also proxy for the question of Iran. On both matters, Israel and the U.S. are superficially in agreement, but actually at odds--and at the worst of times.