The point of President Obama's meetings this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin was to get past a diplomatic spat. But once that's over, we'll merely return to the same old "stalemate" in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, says Dan Ephron in Newsweek. Obama is hoping to hold "proximity talks," with America acting as messenger and shuttling back and forth between representatives of the two sides. But without face-to-face meetings, Ephron says, there's little "real hope for a deal." Here's an excerpt:
"Are Israelis and Palestinians heading back to the bargaining table? That might be the upshot of President Obama's meeting in Washington with Prime Minister 'Bibi' Netanyahu. If so, the two sides will be seated at different tables this time, in different cities, for what the parties are calling "proximity talks." Proposed by the United States as a way of getting around Palestinian objections to face-to-face negotiations, the talks will be begin next month, with American mediators shuttling back and forth between the two sides. The good news is that the Middle East peace process is finally recommencing, after a 14-month impasse. The bad news: these talks are probably doomed from the start. Here's why.
1. Proximity talks have never worked. Israel and Syria tried them during 2008, with the Turks acting as message carriers (Turkish officials are now offering to do so again). The two delegations actually stayed in the same hotel in Istanbul during four sessions but never interacted in person. The result was a series of interesting exchanges but no concrete decisions, not even the obligatory confidence-building measures."