Over the course of the past few days, the major story here has focused on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s indefatigable attempts to restart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. All sides have been impressed with Kerry's zeal and determination. Not since Kissinger engaged in "shuttle diplomacy" has an American official invested so much, in so little. All Kerry was trying to do was re-initiate negotiations. Kerry's attempt was met with two major challenges: 1) the lack of trust on the part of the Palestinians that Netanyahu was serious about reaching a settlement, and 2) the fear (of both sides) that their domestic opponents would criticize them for making concessions.
The Palestinians had three preconditions for returning to the negotiating table: 1) A freeze of new construction in the West Bank, that freeze has effectively been in place. 2) A public statement by Netanyahu that negotiations would take place on the basis of defining borders of Israel, based on the 67 lines, and 3) Israel's agreement to release– prior to the start of negotiations– all of the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel since before the signing of the Oslo Accords.
For the moment, it seems it was the third point that ended up being the sticking point. As I said in the first point above, Israel has defacto stopped construction. On the second point, although Netanyahu would not agree publicly, it seems he was willing to let the Americans state for him that the '67 borders would be a starting point. On the third point, Israel was not willing to agree to the release of prisoners as a precondition, but would weigh doing so in the course of the negotiations.
On the last point I have heard two very different views– one view questioned how Netanyahu could not agree to release prisoners in order to achieve a strategic goal, (i.e. the resumption of negotiations). After all, look how many prisoners were released in order to free Gilad Shalit. The other view contends that least in the previous prisoner release, we got Shalit. Here, we would be releasing prisoners just to start negotiations; negotiations that Abbas could walk out of one day later. There is truth to both arguments.
Kerry left the region saying that progress was achieved, and reaching a result only required more effort. I am actually slightly optimistic. I think Netanyahu has decided that it's in Israel interest to reach an agreement. As such, Netanyahu may now be open to agree to things he was never willing to agree to before. Netanyahu stated today that any potential agreement would be brought first to a national referendum. The act of bringing up the possibility of a national referendum clearly shows that he is thinking seriously about new options. There are also rumors that Netanyahu is thinking of following the footsteps of Ariel Sharon and breaking away from a Likud party that is moving ever more rightward, and of which he has lost control. In the meantime I heard a number of times Palestinians talking about the return to 67 borders would be an end to all of their claims
As I write this piece, history is taking place in the streets of Cairo. Millions are on the street calling on Morsi to resign. How large the number is in fact is hard to know, but clearly the pressure is on. The Muslim Brotherhood has clearly over played their hand. They would have done much better biding their time and not taking over the government. However, the temptation was too great. Now they are saddled with a failed regime, and what has translated into a failed philosophy. They preached that Islam was the answer to Egypt’s problems. Needless to say, no religion can fix a country in such dire shape as Egypt. By the time you read this events may overtaken what I have written.
Finally, there was a report on Israel TV of a survey that says everything about Israeli society today. 87% of older Israelis provide substantial support to their married children. The average amount given is 2,000 shekels per month and average age of those helped is 41 years old.
An article worth reading- Why is the Left so Blinkered to Islamic Extrimism