The news in Israel in the past few days has been dominiated by the announcement that Peace Talks with the Palestinians will resume in Washington later this week. By all accounts, this is a tremendous personal accomplishment for U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, who refused to take "no" for an answer. As a result, Kerry has successfully pushed both Netanyahu and Abbas beyond their comfort zones and forced them to enter into protracted negotiations.
Of course the big question is– What comes now? Are these talks going to be another dead end? An interesting theory has developed among almost every Israeli commentator that I have heard today. After going through the whole litany of reasons why the chances of successful peace negotiations are not great, almost all of the pundits agree–(possibly the result of wishful thinking on their parts), that because the expectations are so low this time, we might actually accomplish something.
There are three main questions that have to be asked to determine whether these talks will be successful. First, what are Netanyahu's intentions? Is he entering into these talks to actually reach an agreement, or just to buy time? While there is no definitive answer to that question, a growing list of Israelis seems to believe that Netanyahu has crossed the Rubicon transversed by so many other Revisionists in the past few years– To name a few: Livni Olmert, Meridor all now realize that the only hope for Zionism is the two state solution-- and though getting there will be painful, we have no choice.
For Abbas, the question is– Can he make the painful compromise that no Palestinian has been willing to make on behalf of the rest of the Palestinians– to give up the "Right of Return" to Israel proper. Abbas has clearly ceded that right for himself, publicly stating that he never expects to return to Safed where he was born. That being said, will Abbas have the courage and the ability to give up that right for all the rest of the Palestinians?
Finally, if a final agreement cannot be reached, will the sides be willing to reach a long terms interim agreement. Many people think that might be the solution (i.e. agreeing on the outlines of the final agreement, but agreeing to disagree on some of the details– while in the meantime implementing a long-term interim agreement that will in fact establish two states for two people.)
I am not sure if all of this is possible. However, I, together with most Israelis who are on the center or left, are all a little more optimistic today than we were a week ago.