Times reporter Jodi Rudoren's analysis of the near-breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian talks relays a strong conviction that the talks are going nowhere. But process for process's sake is not necessarily pure insanity:
...keeping the Palestinian track alive helps prevent Mr. Netanyahu and his allies in the United States Congress from taking steps that could threaten diplomacy with Tehran.True, Rudoren also alleges the converse, in a roundup of supremely cynical rationales for keeping the talks going:
[The talks]are a critical confidence-builder in Israel’s strained relationship with Washington, providing Mr. Netanyahu with access and leverage to press his case on Iran.But better a Netanyahu whispering darkly of eternal Iranian perfidy than going before the U.S. Congress to denounce a "bad deal" to thunderous bipartisan applause.
Of course, Netanyahu's inherited, religiously inflected enmity toward Iran and willingness to exploit the alleged existential danger it poses to distract attention from his continued gobbling of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is only one factor mitigating against an accord with Iran. If confrontation with Russia expands to multiple theaters, if Republicans win the Senate, if Iranian hardliners or Khamenei himself forestall necessary concessions, if all these multi-front hardline pressures work on each other enough to prevent good faith dealing and flexibility on either (or any) side, there will be no deal.
But neutralizing Netanyahu on the Iranian front just enough with futile talks with the Palestinians would be worth doing if it put an accord with Iran over the finish line.
* * *
* Incidentally, Rudoren reported claims that the Israel-Palestinian talks have made no substantive progress contradict claims to the opposite effect in the Times' lead news article on the impasse, by Michael Gordon and Mark Landler. Here's how Rudoren paints the current status:
[Kerry's] mission has just been to keep people meeting and dialoguing, and not force them to sign or to agree,” said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs....And, as to substance, Rudoren claims:
Experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have reached something of a consensus on why Mr. Kerry’s original goal of a final-status agreement is all but impossible to imagine now. The maximum that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to yield, the thinking goes, falls far short of the minimum that President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority is willing to accept. Mr. Netanyahu is hamstrung by deep divisions in his governing coalition and his own Likud Party, while Mr. Abbas is straitjacketed by the rift between the West Bank and Gaza, as well as discord within his own Fatah faction.
The parties have spent hundreds of hours in recent weeks debating the particulars of which prisoners might be freed when; any discussion of how to divide Jerusalem, where to draw a border or the rights of refugees is a distant memory.The news story, however, quotes Aaron David Miller to the opposite effect:
Mr. Miller said Mr. Kerry was also handicapped by his success in keeping a lid on leaks about the details of the talks over the last eight months. “The zone of silence masks significant, substantial advances on the substance, but he can’t talk about them,” Mr. Miller said.I suppose those claims can be reconciled. Substantive negotiation may have bogged down relatively recently after prior progress hit walls on both sides. In any case, no one seems to think the prospects for an agreement are good.