Writing today in The Daily Beast, I ask why Washington appears to invest so much hope in the latest direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. People I talked to in the Middle East as these talks were getting underway were almost universally resigned in advance to failure on this round.
Two suggestions diplomats and observers in the region made: bring actors like Hamas and the Israeli opposition into the talks, and change the structural incentives for Israel and Palestinian parties, which currently reward the status quo.
Not a single person I interviewed in the Middle East during the last two months expected anything to come of the current talks—certainly not anything good—although, for the record, no one predicted either that a failed peace process would unleash a new intifada or wholesale change in Israeli priorities.
Instead, the Arab diplomats, analysts, and activists who support Hamas and Hezbollah with whom I spoke seemed in accord that for the time being, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians saw anything to gain from dialogue, except for earning chits with Washington.
The main benefit of a peace process, in this view, is that Washington wants one, and so long as it doesn’t cost anything, Washington’s allies in Ramallah and Jerusalem are happy to oblige.