Amid much fanfare, yet another round of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority has been announced, after a 3 year hiatus that was totally due to Palestinian rejectionism. It was the product of a great deal of arm twisting by Secretary of State John Kerry to get the Israelis to cave in to releasing 104 Palestinian terrorists convicted of murder and other heinous crimes in Israeli courts in phases as a precondition demanded by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as the price for coming to the table for what are really talks about talks rather than anything substantial.
To give you an idea of how horrendous that arm twisting must have been, Netanyahu went ahead and shoved it through even though he knew over 80% of Israelis angrily opposed it. And Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who has been outspoken about opposing such 'goodwill gestures' in the past signed off on it, citing 'strategic considerations' and saying quite openly that the released Palestinians were murderers and that freeing them was 'choosing a bad option over a worse option.'
Aside from releasing a few genocidal jihadists into society, there's not much of anything that will come of this, and there are a number of reasons why.
The first, most basic one is that there's no deal the Israelis can afford to offer unless they suddenly become suicidal that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would accept.
Abbas has stated many times that he has no intention of making a single concession to Israel as far as his demands go.
Abbas wants Israel to create 500,000 refugees and give him the entire area of Judea and Samaria(AKA The West Bank) as a Jew free apartheid reichlet. He wants half of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Holy sites which will then of course be barred to Jews. He wants all of the terrorist killers now incarcerated after being convicted in Israeli courts whom he refers to as 'heroes' and 'holy martyrs' freed. And he wants the right to flood the rest of Israel with thousands of genocidal 'refugees'.
In exchange for all that, Israel would get a piece of paper signed by an unelected dictator with Jordanian citizenship who doesn't even come close to controlling all the Palestinian factions - even his own Fatah.And someone who might very well be overthrown by Hamas if left to his own devices, in which case that piece of paper is entirely worthless.
There is no government in Israel (let alone any sizable faction of the Israeli public) that would ever agree to this. And having been backed into a corner by President Obama's faux pas of insisting on a settlement based on Israel's 1948 indefensible ceasefire lines, Abbas cannot accept anything less than that.
There's been some talk of land swaps by those desperately seeking some kind of wiggle room to craft some kind of deal. By that, they're referring to gifting Abbas with Israeli land in exchange for Area C, where the population is 95% Jewish. These hopeful souls (who are entirely on the Israeli and American side) refuse to admit even to themselves that Abbas has already said adamantly that he won't settle for anything less than all of Judea and Samaria. And they also forget the problem of Jerusalem, which Abbas also has refused to make any kind of deal on. Israeli law calls for a popular referendum before giving up any part of Jerusalem, and not only would the Israeli public soundly defeat anything remotely like that, but any government that proposed it would promptly fall and find itself out of office.
The second major reason nothing is likely to come of negotiations has to do with Israel's past experiences with agreements with the Palestinians, and the changed political climate.
The last time this happened was in 2005, when Ariel Sharon pushed through Israel's disengagement from Gaza. That too was supposed to be a major stride towards peace, and it came with supposedly iron clad security guarantees from the U.S., the EU, the UN and the Palestinian Authority that Gaza would not ever be a security threat to Israel.
When Ariel Sharon removed 10,000 Israelis from their communities in Gaza, he had three things in his favor; in spite of vigorous opposition he had a political consensus for doing it, guarantees from at least a somewhat sympathetic U.S. president in hand and the fact that it was way down south, far away from Tel Aviv and Haifa working for him.
Bibi Netanyahu has none of these going for him.
In spite of all the paperwork and the honeyed words, Gaza did become a security threat to Israel, the UN reversed itself and declared Gaza still under 'occupation' merely because the Israelis took measures to keep heavy weapons out of the hands of Hamas after the U.S. and EU declined to back up those supposedly iron clad guarantees, and the Israelis who'd been so supportive of the disengagement realized that the IDF wasn't just protecting a bunch of 'settlers' in Gaza but all of Israel.
The Israeli public has also noticed that in spite of guarantees from the government, Jewish refugees from places like Gush Katif, Netzarim and Gan Or were not quickly resettled elsewhere. Aside from losing their homes, many lost their livelihoods and a number of them are still living in trailers. Just imagine what it would be like to have to try and resettle 50 times as many refugees,with hostile Arabs within missile range of Israel's most populous cities. The Israelis can, all too easily.
And the political climate has changed markedly since the Obama Administration took office. The EU's recent decision to re-erect ghetto walls around pre '67 Israel has pretty much removed the EU as any kind of honest broker or legitimate guarantor of any agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Israeli eyes.
And the Obama Administration? Do we really need to revisit the climate that's been created between the US and Israel since Barack Obama took over? His repudiation of agreements made with Israel by President Bush that convinced Israeli PM Ariel Sharon to go ahead with the Gaza disengagement? His call for Israel to re-divide Jerusalem and retreat to indefensible borders? His telling Iran that Israel was on its own in the event of any hostilities? His insisting that Israel has no right to Jewish religious sites? His repeated statements that the Palestinians need not recognize Israel as a Jewish State or his continued funding of the Palestinian Authority in spite of their continued support and incitement for terrorism against Israeli civilians? His instituting what amounted to a de facto arms embargo during the early part of his first term? The list could go on for quite some time.
President Obama started out by saying openly that he wanted to create daylight between Israel and the United States, and has proceeded to act on it.He's done more to delegitimize Israel and distance America from a major ally than any president in history.
A president and an administration seen as friendly towards Israel and a trustworthy ally might have given the Israelis the confidence they needed to offer certain concessions. You can pretty much forget about that with President Obama and his current national security and foreign policy team, containing outspokenly anti-Israel voices in every major position.
Finally, both sides have ample reasons to like the status quo.
President Obama has seen to it that the Palestinian Authority has continued to be lavishly funded, even repeatedly overriding congressional holds on the funds, something previously unheard of. Mahmoud Abbas has been able to use that money to both buy loyalty and enrich the Fatah Old Guard, especially now that American educated former prime minister Selim Fayyad has been fired and no longer has any oversight power. Aside from the fact that the majority of Palestinians in Area A, where the PA has complete sovereignty owe their livelihood to Abbas and the PA, the government functions as a kleptocracy with well connected Fatah apparatchniks controlling or at least getting a substantial piece of virtually every private enterprise there. So life is tolerable, Abbas is able to run things and there's no reason for him to change, although he'll cheerfully take what ever concessions the Obama Administration is able to wring out of Israel as long as he doesn't have to make any concessions himself.
Abbas also knows that every Arab Leader who ever made any kind of serious attempt to make peace with the hated Jews has wound up dead except for King Hussein of Jordan, and he had any number of close calls. Mahmoud Abbas, as Yasser Arafat's former right hand man knows that quite well.
The majority of the Israeli public understands that the Oslo era is over, that is was a bad idea in the first place and that the entire idea of 'land for peace' hasn't provided anything like that. There's no incentive for them to buy that dilapidated, foul smelling used car again. Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are of far more interest to them than the inhabitants of the Arab-occupied areas of Judea and Samaria, the so-called Palestinian demographic bomb that was supposed to force a settlement on Israel's part has turned out to be a myth, and the economy is relatively good and getting better as Israel's oil and gas come online.
Where the talks about talks go - and that's exactly what they are at this point - depends on what if anything Netanyahu is willing to give up just to massage John Kerry and President Obama to keep the farce going.
While Netanyahu has proven unexpectedly malleable so far, there are certain red lines he simply can't cross even if he wanted to with his coalition collapsing and being repudiated even by his own Likud Party. He's pretty close to those lines right now.