Oh, John Kerry. I have to hand it to you. Within what seemed like seconds after you assumed your role as Secretary of State, you focused your newfound political capital in what can only be described as a black hole of good intentions- the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Many scratched their heads in confusion about America's diplomatic priorities-"what about our Asian pivot?" "what about Syria?" and so forth- and others (read: everyone) were skeptical that any progress would be made. Still, you really went for it, traveling to Tel Aviv and Ramallah at an insane pace, promising progress, scaling back expectations, playing both sides. Alas, with less than a month before the "official" expiration of the talks extension that both sides agreed to (April 29), it seems as though the peace process has- wait for it- collapsed (again).
Depending on who you ask, there's a few reasons this happened. Some might say the Israelis did not release the last batch of Palestinian prisoners, as promised. Others mights say the Palestinians signing on to 16 UN-affiliated organizations was strictly forbidden as a part of negotiations (guess which side says what). The potential release of Jonathan Pollard, convicted and sentenced for spying on the United States for Israel, was floated briefly as a potential bargaining chip for Israel to continue in the talks. But these were relatively recent issues. The talks seemed doomed from the start, as settlements continued to be announced and built and violence in the West Bank and Gaza has increased. Both sides made it evident throughout the process that the talks were fruitless and the fundamental differences between perspectives were more entrenched and further apart than ever. And yet John Kerry persisted, and indeed it seems is still persisting, with much chagrin from his former colleagues in the Senate.
Although Kerry is trying to make the case that the talks are far from dead, all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. While my initial thoughts were, ah well, at least he tried, he got both sides talking, etc., I can't help but feel that this latest round of talks was the last chance for the peace process to happen in this secretly negotiated and US-focused manner. Things on the ground are changing, and people are tired of the normal channels of negotiation since they never seem to go ANYWHERE. But instead of suicide vests, they are turning to non-violent means, such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (known as BDS) on a grassroots level and forms of international recognition, such as the UN bid, on the governmental level. While Palestinian advocates feel the positive momentum in their corner, particularly as the relationship between Israel and the U.S. isn't as cozy as usual, in policy circles I hear a different thesis altogether- who cares? Scholars and policymakers have been pointing out that the Israeli/Palestinian issue just isn't the core issue in the Middle East at this point, with some even arguing that it's just a "local dispute" and isn't really important to the international community anymore.
While I obviously disagree with THAT logic, it's increasingly clear that third parties are kind of...over it. And maybe they should be- their interventions have done nothing except for perpetuate the current situation. So what's next? I honestly don't know. What do you think? Should Kerry give up or is it too late at this point for the international community to wash their hands of the issue?