And so we appear to have reached the end of the latest fruitless attempt at resolving this too long, and too bloody, conflict.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. The Americans’ early focus on an Israeli settlement freeze ensured that the Palestinians would have a perfect excuse to avoid direct negotiations – even though this had never before been asked of Israel as a condition for peace talks. Meanwhile, revelations that Mahmoud Abbas had rejected Ehud Olmert’s parting gift of a two-state solution that went beyond anything previously offered to the Palestinians in its crossing of supposed Israeli red lines, was not a promising sign that the Palestinians were even ready to do a deal.
Netanyahu responded to the US’s request by trying to appease Obama while not alienating the settlers, ordering a ten-month moratorium on building in West Bank settlements but insisting it would be a one-time event. He ignored the advice of wiser heads in his government such as Dan Meridor, who urged him to take the opportunity to make a distinction between the settlement blocs (which, according to all previous peace proposals would remain part of Israel) and settlements that would have to be evacuated in any future peace agreement.