Americans are told that the Middle East peace talks between Israel and Palestinians are dead. That appears true for the moment, but it cannot be for the long run — unless the two parties, the United States, and the rest of the world are prepared to continue living in a climate of unrest, with the threat of war hanging over their heads.
If the talks are done for now, their demise is a setback for President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who has devoted endless hours and miles to working with both sides, which have been in conflict since 1948.
Mr. Obama launched his effort in 2009, after his first-term election. His first attempt failed when Israel did not stop expanding settlements in the West Bank, and Palestinians refused to continue talks unless it did.
Hillary Clinton, Mr. Obama’s first secretary of State, declined to become actively involved in the peacemaking process, understanding the political risks to her that it entailed. Mr. Kerry, however, tackled the problem head on.
This most recent effort flopped when Israeli refused to free Palestinian prisoners. Palestinians responded by seeking membership in 15 international organizations and reunifying Hamas in Gaza with Fatah in the West Bank. As a result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the talks dead.
Hostility remains. Israel can’t maintain a democratic Jewish state without dealing with its growing Muslim and Christian Arab minority. Palestinians seek a self-governing homeland for their 11 million people in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, and other Mideast countries. Possibilities of violence continue in the form of a third Palestinian uprising or in cross-border conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Any suggestion of relief from the tension in the talks through their current stall is deceptive. The much bigger and deadly problem remains.