The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are under way. Again. The obstacles to any lasting peace are again the same, and can probably be summed up in three words:
As far as Jerusalem goes, there is little doubt that both sides claim the city as their own. The only real solution is that the city is handed over to some kind of neutral international trust.
As far as Palestine goes, the conditions for a viable two state solution would include land swaps, effectively ending Israeli’s settlement expansion , and creating a state that resembles the pre-1967 borders. Stopping settlement expansion is most likely the hardest issue to tackle, as settlement expansion under Netanyahu continues.
As for water water in a parched region like the Middle East is invaluable. And without easy and cheap ways to desalinate water (there are not, at least not now), water rights will be a huge, if often overlooked issue.
For these three reasons alone, peace talks will likely be held in perpetuity.
However, new events in the Middle East might actually compel Israelis and Palestinians to forge a lasting peace. Syria’s civil war and Hezbollah’s influence act as a destabilizing force in the region. Iran comes ever closer to gaining nuclear weapons. Egypt remains in turmoil, which in turn might threaten the Camp David Accords.
Achieving lasting peace between the two parties would not only erase the single greatest catalyst for hate, misunderstanding, and hatemongering in the world today. And the peace agreement would set the stage for a more stable and peaceful region in the short and long term, with debasing Iran’s best reason for eliminating Israel from the map being one of the peace deal’s most tangible benefits.
Indeed, achieving lasting peace would be the single greatest diplomatic achievement this century. No wonder every US president for the past few decades has tried their hand at it. With the stakes so high, President Obama and US Secretary of State Kerry are right to restart talks. Will the talks most likely end in failure in a few months’ time? Absolutely. Will new peace talks start sometime down the road? Yes.
But you cannot have a lasting peace without first starting peace talks. And as the stakes go up–an unstable Syria and Egypt, not to mention a nuclear Iran, peace or war will have to come some day, and so in the interim the awkward diplomatic dance goes on. But in the end the benefits of peace will outweigh the costs of war, and so there is hope yet that the interminable war will finally meet its end.