After a long period of stagnation on the peace front, there are signs of activity, with France preparing to convene Israeli-Palestinian talks this summer, hosting more than two dozen foreign ministers, and Egypt encouraging the move.
One major problem for Israel is that the French have said that if the talks fail, they will recognize a Palestinian state. Israel is refusing to participate, asserting that assuring the Palestinians of their goal even if the talks fail gives them no incentive to compromise.
Anyone familiar with the history of the region understands that in all likelihood this is another false start. Still, there have been persistent reports in the Israeli media of a rapprochement between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Isaac “Bougie” Herzog that could be seen as preparation to fend against a diplomatic assault. The speculation is that Netanyahu may now be willing to bring Herzog on board to give the coalition more flexibility in the face of the political pressure from the French effort and in advance of a Quartet report expected to harshly criticize Israeli settlements. (The Quartet is made up of the U.S., the UN, the European Union and Russia.) Even more worrisome is a possible UN Security Council resolution late this year that would focus on the obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Jerusalem is not convinced that the outgoing Obama administration would veto a tough resolution. All the more reason for Netanyahu, whose right-leaning coalition offers him little, if any, room to give on settlements, to look to Herzog for cover. That could mean the ability to offer some compromise to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But Herzog wants a meaningful portfolio and he knows that many of his Labor allies will accuse him of selling out if he joins the coalition. And Netanyahu would get flak from the right for taking him in. So there’s a long way from here to there. But the sense is that something has to give as pressures mount on Israel from all sides.