To Negotiate Or Not To Negotiate In Middle East?

President Obama in his State of the Union message discussed a wide variety of domestic and foreign policy issues, but conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority once again told America and the world it would not resume negotiations until Israel ceases housing construction in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. He agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state if that was an item in the entire range of issues to be resolved for peace. He spoke honestly about why it was ridiculous to return to a bargaining table that had nothing to bargain about. “If Israel says in the meeting that it will not accept the 1967 borders and that it is not prepared to discuss Jerusalem and the refugee situation, what is there to talk about?”

The dilemma is no discussion can proceed on topics such as who rules east Jerusalem if Israel continues building homes for Jews and evicting Arabs. The actions of the current Netanyahu administration make impossible any meaningful discussions. President Abbas never said he was unwilling to discuss the West Bank and, perhaps, agree to some modifications of the 1967 boundary, but such concessions will only emerge after Israel ceases building. It is in the best interests of Israel to halt construction and negotiate with Abbas about territorial modifications.