Will White House Dictate Israel-Palestine Terms?
Obama could dictate premises and force a yes or no
It sounds too satirical to be true: the Israelis and the Palestinians have not sat down at the final-status negotiating table because they cannot agree on what to agree on. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem formally on the table before talks begin; Israel doesn’t. Israel wants no firm deadline; the Palestinians want a two-year timetable. And so on. And the actual discussions haven’t begun yet!
The Obama administration appears fed up with the parties’ inability even to talk, and so is considering a novel solution: the White House would fabricate what it deems are fair preconditions to the actual talks (“terms of reference” is how you say it in diplomatese). President Barack Obama would send letters outlining them to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas. The two sides would simultaneously face the same deal. If nothing else, they would be on the same page.
Either or both sides could still reject those terms, of course. But at least the onus would more firmly be on them to say yes or no, and a dynamic could occur in which one side says yes and thereby puts massive pressure on the other side to follow suit. Maybe—just maybe—the two sides would both bite, and actually sit down together. It would be a start.
Earlier: The Road Map to Real Negotiations