Morning! Very good to be back at Political Animal after what felt like a lifetime away.
Let’s start with the always-cheerful subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations — namely, Mahmoud Abbas’s trip to the U.N. and the subsequent upgrading of the Palestinians’ status there.
Over at The Daily Beast, Daniel Levy adds a little context to the frequent refrain that Abbas’s move is no substitute for actual negotiations, which are the only way to bring the conflict to a close.
Most European governments and especially those abstaining have stressed the absolute necessity of a return to negotiations. What they have failed to explain is why resumed negotiations this time around would produce a different outcome to the failed efforts and foot-dragging of the past. In fact, in accumulating a little leverage for the Palestinians and by helping establish terms of reference for a two-state outcome, the U.N. vote could start to contribute to a more conducive context in which future negotiations can take place. But for negotiations to really make a difference, more will have to be done on parameters and on creating consequences for recalcitrant actors.
It’s easy to forget that polling has shown, very broadly and generally speaking, that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians both want something like the two-state solution. The problem is that the “recalcitrant actors” in question always seem to have undue influence. If there aren’t mechanisms in place to deter the spoilers, the stalemate will continue. Although “stalemate” is the wrong word, because every day without a real resumption of the peace process, more settlements are built, Hamas continues to gain legitimacy and international recognition at the expense of Fatah, and the demographic outlook gets worse for those who want Israel to be both Jewish and democratic. There’s no real “status quo” here because things are getting grimmer by the day.