As the political dust settles in the wake of the Obama-Netanayahu meeting, the two governments’ positions are starting to come into focus. Netanyahu rejects the two-state solution; Obama affirms it. Netanyahu insists on continuing the “natural growth” of existing settlements; Obama rejects it. Netanhyahu insists that Jerusalem will remain the “eternal, undivided” capital of Israel; Obama sees Jerusalem as up for negotiations.
One would almost think from this that Israel and the United States are negotiating with one another. But they’re not. Israel’s supposed to be negotiating with the Palestinians. And there are all sorts of questions that have to do with what the Palestinians are willing to give up: the “right of return,” contiguity, Jerusalem, education, a permanent end to hostility, etc. What happened to all of these? As long as there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, the respective positions of both Netanyahu and Obama are meaningless.
Well, not entirely meaningless. Both leaders have internal interests that their positions serve: Netanyahu calculates he will win points among Israelis by standing tough against American pressure; whereas Obama needs to show that he’s not beholden to the “Israel Lobby.” There’s something overly comfortable about this clash of views.
But, as I have pointed out, there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, and there will not be one so long as the Palestinians are irreconcilably split between Hamas and the PA. The whole thing is process, and there is a price to pay for a show that never ends.