On Sunday Israel declared another 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank near Bethlehem “state land,” making it available to become Jewish settlements.
It was predictable that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would take some such action to distract the Israelis from the less-than-satisfying results of the recently completed, 50-day war in Gaza. Israel Defense Forces’ air and ground attacks on the Palestinians in Gaza killed more than 2,100, with 70 Israeli losses, and destroyed much housing and other infrastructure in the Strip.
At the same time, the Palestinians never begged for a cease-fire and kept rockets flying into Israel past the end of the conflict. The hostilities were finally brought to a halt by Egyptian mediation, supported by the United States and general international opinion. The United States called the Israeli land seizure “counterproductive,” but took no action to discourage it.
As of now, there are no indications that the American-led negotiations over the future of the Israelis and Palestinians in the Israel-West Bank-Gaza territory, which broke down in April, are likely to resume in the near future, even though most of the world and many Israelis continue to believe that a two-state resolution of the problem is the only logical end to the 66-year-old conflict. President Barack Obama, who launched talks in the first year of his presidency, and Secretary of State John Kerry, who devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to the most recent iteration of the talks, may find themselves burned out on the subject at the moment.
Israel’s position in the Middle East, surrounded by unstable states including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as Iraq and the Islamic State over the horizon, is not improving, and international pressure in the form of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, particularly in Europe, is increasing. The Palestinians see the next field of battle as the United Nations sessions scheduled for September in New York.
A resumption of talks right now would be useful.