In the Arena

How Diplomacy Works–Cont.

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Israel has apparently decided to take a page from the Diplomacy 101 handbook and slow-walk new housing developments in East Jerusalem, while maintaining its “right” to build them, according to Isabel Kershner in a New York Times piece that–arrgh!–I read yesterday but can’t seem to find on the Times website. An analysis today by Mark Landler seems to confirm the new state of play.

This is, first of all, good news for the middle east peace process. It is also a tiny victory for Barack Obama’s middle east policy. It is also–despite the ravings of American Likudnik fanatics–a very small concession to international order. If Netanyahu manages to maintain this status quo that dare not speak its name, despite the dismay among the more rightward elements in his coalition, we might now be able to get a better sense of whether the Palestinians are actually ready to negotiate a peace this time. It is always good to remember that in the times that we came close in the past–Bill Clinton’s 2000 effort; Ehud Olmert’s more recent attempt–it was the Palestinians who were unwilling to close the deal.

A full-fledged peace is probably impossible, given the intransigent Hamas position in Gaza. But some real progress may be possible on the West Bank, which is now under the more enlightened governance of Salam Fayyad (a Time 100 honoree this year) and Mahmoud Abbas. We shall see.