For now, let Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapse

  • Article by: EDITORIAL , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2014 - 7:52 PM

The U.S. has wasted too much time with key players stuck in intractable positions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sounds frustrated and exhausted. No wonder. He has shuttled time and again to the Middle East to meet a self-imposed late April deadline for a “framework” that could lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

But the talks are on the verge of collapse. Let them.

“There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward,” Kerry said last week. We’re at those limits.

Kerry’s warning came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu balked at releasing Palestinian prisoners because, he said, the Palestinians hadn’t agreed to extend the negotiation deadline past the end of this month. And after the Palestinians moved to join 15 international conventions and agreements, defying Israel and the United States.

And after the United States foolishly floated the possibility of releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in a transparently desperate bid to keep the Israelis at the table. Pulling Pollard out of a hat was too cute by half — what’s Pollard got to do with this?

Last week, Kerry said the peace process needs a “reality check.” We’d say it also needs the United States to substitute tough love for denial of the obvious. What would happen if Kerry told the Israelis and Palestinians, “Call us when you’re ready to make the serious compromises necessary for a deal. Otherwise, we have pressing issues elsewhere in the world.”

Secretary Kerry, let’s say exactly that.

U.S. officials warn that a collapse of the peace talks could spur more violence and increase the international isolation of Israel. Yes, it could. But that could happen anyway if talks continue to grind along without result.

The Washington Post reported that when Kerry’s aides grow discouraged about the floundering Mideast talks, he often shores them up with this peppy axiom: “Don’t be afraid to be caught trying.” The United States has devoted enough energy to trying, at least for now.

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