Deal breakers: Israelis and Palestinians are losing their chance

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Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

Although the proceedings have been closely held, the objective has been an agreement that would provide for two states, Israel and Palestine, living together in peace and recognized by the world. A recent step was Mr. Kerry delivering to the two sides a U.S.-developed framework agreement for consideration, to serve as an agenda of issues and a timetable leading to a final pact. Its fate is now unclear.

The two sides this week seem to be looking for exits from the talks based, in both cases, on bad faith. Israel insisted that the Palestinians had to agree to its being described as a Jewish state, leaving unclear the status of 1.7 million Arabs in its 7.8 million population. That Israel is and will be a Jewish state has never been in question. The second point now in the way is Mr. Netanyahu’s refusal to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, which Israel had pledged earlier in the negotiations.

The third is the outrageous Israeli request that the United States release from prison Jonathan Pollard, a spy convicted of selling U.S. secrets to Israel. The United States would release him in return for Israeli agreement to extend the talks, a bad deal for America.

After all that transpired, the Palestinians said on Tuesday that they have applied for membership in 15 international organizations, which they had pledged not to do during the talks.

Both sides still need an agreement in order to proceed with a future in peace and security. The United States and Mr. Kerry have given them the opportunity to achieve one. They should stop fooling around and start holding real negotiations. U.S. patience is not limitless.

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