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On the Israel-Palestinian front, a year of disappointment

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sitting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting in Ramallah, West Bank, July 19, 2013. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sitting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting in Ramallah, West Bank, July 19, 2013. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

One year ago today, Secretary of State John Kerry stood behind a lectern, flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Smiling, Kerry announced the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The goal was to reach a final-status peace treaty establishing a Palestinian state within nine months.

Fifty-two weeks of recriminations and violence later, Israelis and Palestinians couldn’t be further from that goal. In the past three months alone, Israel has gone from faltering talks with the Palestinian Authority to its bloodiest conflict with Hamas in five years — in which more than 50 Israelis and more than 1,000 Palestinians have died. In between, four boys — three Israeli and one Palestinian — were kidnapped and murdered.

For people on all sides and of all political stripes, this has been a year of disappointment. For Israelis on the left, obstinate, failed negotiations were another blow to the long-desired two-state solution. Israelis on the right may take some solace in the talks’ failure, but they also saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a former champion of Greater Israel — make his most vocal statements for a two-state solution.

Palestinians, meanwhile, remain stateless, and those in Gaza are coping with widespread destruction and death. Negotiations toward a Palestinian unity government, begun at the peace talks’ end, have stalled with the outbreak of war.

The past year has also been tough on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Even before talks failed, Kerry weathered repeated statements from Israel’s defense minister opposing his efforts. And Kerry’s attempt at an Israel-Hamas cease-fire — negotiated with Hamas’ allies and lacking Israel’s principal demand — met unanimous disapproval from Israel’s Security Cabinet.

If there’s been one constant in this year of dashed hopes, it’s the pessimism of Israel’s Jews. Soon after negotiations started, the Israel Democracy Institute found that nearly 80 percent of Israeli Jews rated the talks as having a low chance of success. And in a poll released by IDI today, half of Israeli Jews say that “a further round of battle” will follow the current conflict with Hamas.

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