Egyptâ€™s interim president Mansour (R) speaks with Palestinian President Abbas during a meeting in Cairoon 11/10/2013. REUTERS/Egyptian Handout.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having occupied the front pages of Middle Eastern news for over 60 years, has been sidelined in the past several years (and particularly in the last few months) as Syria, Egypt, and Iran have made headlines. Yet even though the world media has largely ignored it, the conflict has raged on. The shooting of two Palestinians at an Israeli checkpoint last week is powerful proof of this.
As the conflict continues, so do the efforts to resolve it. Overshadowed by other events, a strong push has been made to restart negotiations between the two sides. In fact, these other events have sometimes directly hindered the process. During the crisis over Syrian chemical weapons in September, meetings between leaders that had been scheduled months in advance to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue were instead used to discuss the Syrian issue, pushing the peace process back yet again.
It is understandable that under the imminent threat of military action, negotiations over a 60 year old conflict were not the priority, both for the media, and for politicians. However, the negotiations might have actually benefited from the lack of media coverage.
Previously, the peace process came with Israelis and Palestinians expecting from their leaders far more than either side could deliver. Palestinians expect that their leaders will secure for them a state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Meanwhile, Israelis expect that the West Bank settlements will be allowed to remain, building allowed to continue unabated. These expectations are not only incompatible, they are unrealistic. However, with the mediaâ€™s attention focused elsewhere, the leaders have a chance to enter into negotiations without the usual heavy expectations.
We should not be pessimistic in these efforts, as there is already enough pessimism; belief that this process will not succeed. After so many negotiations which have ended only in disappointment, very few are optimistic that these negotiations will be any different. But many politicians retain that optimism. As each American leader has entered the presidency or the state department, he has brought with him his ambitions; the belief that he will succeed where others have failed.
Secretary of State John Kerry is no different. Throughout his long career in the senate, Kerry has observed the successes and failures of the peace process. He, like so many others before him, believes that he can resolve this conflict that has vexed the world for over half a century, and as the main force behind these negotiations, he will try his hand at it.
Regardless of other events around the world, resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict remains crucial to world stability. With much of the Middle East in turmoil, it is more imperative than ever before that the oldest conflict of the region be solved.