Israel annexing the West Bank isn’t the disaster for peace everyone says it is

Shmuel Rosner, NBC News, July 1, 2020

The Trump administration is the first U.S. administration to state the obvious when it comes to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict: Most Israeli settlements are here to stay, so we might as well accept them. Doing so doesn’t make a peace deal with the Palestinians less likely. In fact, any attempt to promote a resolution must begin by acknowledging this reality and proceed from there.

Denying realities — such as the reality of the Palestinian people, as the Israeli right often does, or the reality of a thriving Jewish state, as the Palestinians frequently do— is a disease that has gotten us, thus far, no closer to healing the rifts between the sides. Only grappling with these realities and finding ways to accommodate them can actually lead to peace. Read more.

I’m an ardent Zionist. But Israel’s annexation makes no sense.

It would impose impossibly high costs and deliver few benefits.

Robert Satloff, Washington Post, June 25, 2020

This is a tough time to be a cheerleader for the U.S.-Israel relationship. It is not easy to watch as our close partner — with the reckless encouragement of the White House — considers annexing parts of the West Bank, a policy that would imperil both countries’ interests despite the clear availability of better alternatives.

I am proud of my advocacy for the bond between these two nations, which has spanned my whole career as a scholar and think tank director. I argued publicly that the United States should move its embassy to Jerusalem. I opposed the Iran nuclear deal and urged senators to vote against that flawed agreement. I believe bolstering Israel advances U.S. interests, strengthening a pro-American ally in the world’s most turbulent region.

And yet even to an ardent proponent of U.S.-Israel cooperation, this example of it defies all logic. Read more.

Report: Israel has told Abbas it will limit annexation to 2-3 settlement blocs

Times of Israel, June 26, 2020

Israel has conveyed a message to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that its annexation plans have been greatly reduced, will no longer apply to the Jordan Valley and will be limited to only two or three settlements blocs, Channel 12 reported Friday, citing a senior official in Ramallah.

The official told the network the message was delivered via Jordan, following Mossad chief Yossi Cohen’s reported meeting on the matter with King Abdullah this week.

The official said no specific details were given on the settlements to be annexed, but said the implication was it would be a small number of blocs. There are three main settlement blocs — Ma’ale Adumim (to the east of Jerusalem), the Etzion Bloc (to the capital’s south) and Ariel (in the heart of the West Bank, southwest of Nablus) — all of which Israel has long indicated it would seek to retain under any negotiated accord with the Palestinians.  Read more.

The Charade of Israel’s Annexation

Seth Frantzman, The Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2020

As Israel slouches toward annexation, there is the usual rising chorus abroad against this unprecedented move that will shift half a century of Israel’s policies. On the one hand, it is natural that Israel would like to clarify the status of almost half a million Israeli citizens who now live in the West Bank. On the other, Israel is going about this important initiative with a lack of seriousness that will weaken Israel’s relations abroad at a tense time in world affairs.

The world is in flux. The Trump administration, which has given Israel a blank check to annex, has stated that its policies are to withdraw from foreign wars and not fight in “far away” places. It is erratically flailing about. Whether Trump wins or loses in November, support for Israel in the US is eroding. Read more.

The West Bank Was Annexed Once Before. It Ended in Regret.

Martin Kramer, Mosaic Magazine, June 25, 2020

Seventy years ago, on April 24, 1950, the parliament of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan resolved in favour of “complete unity between the two banks of the Jordan, the eastern and western, and their union in one single state.”

Two years earlier, in the first Arab-Israeli war, the military legions of Jordan’s King Abdullah had occupied the West Bank and had held their ground until signing an armistice with Israel in April 1949. Even earlier, Abdullah had taken a series of steps to unify the two banks—or, more precisely, to annex the West Bank to his existing kingdom. His 1950 “unification” of the two banks would last until the Six-Day War in June 1967.  Read more.

‘Annexation’ is a misnomer: Israel wants a safe way to hand land to Palestinians in return for peace

Greg Rose, Sydney Morning Herald, June 26, 2020

The Israeli government is considering applying Israeli civil law jurisdiction and administration to parts of the Jordan Valley and/or certain settlement blocs. This possibility was proposed under the US Trump Administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and agreed in the broad national coalition agreement between most of Israel’s political parties. The specific areas and timings are under internal negotiation.

There is a lot of controversy in Israel and worldwide about whether this is a wise or even legal step, as is apparent in the incandescent opinion of Ben Saul, writing in the Herald on Thursday about Israel’s so-called “annexation” plans.

If it goes ahead, Israel would replace military governance under the civil laws of Turkey and Jordan (the prior “occupiers”) with governance under Israeli civil laws. Read more.

Underestimating the risks of annexation

The Economist, June 27, 2020

Nine men and one woman have led Israel since the six-day war of 1967 brought the West Bank under its control. Nearly all thought it too risky to annex any of the territory beyond East Jerusalem. True, Israel has built scores of settlements since the war, so that more than 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, alongside 3m Palestinians. But its leaders calculated that annexation would bring global opprobrium, destabilise the region and doom the two-state solution—the idea that a Palestinian state and a Jewish one might one day peacefully co-exist. Read more.

The battle inside the EU over Israel

Robin Emmott, Luke Baker, John Irish, Maayan Lubell, Reuters, June 24, 2020

A Reuters examination based on internal documents and interviews with more than two dozen diplomats shows there is no clear EU strategy to respond in a meaningful way if Israel applies civilian law to West Bank Jewish communities. An Israeli official noted that Europe and Israel shared many partnerships in various fields and, “in our view, partners should not threaten each other or speak above each other’s heads.”

A senior EU diplomat acknowledged that the bloc will almost certainly fail to reach the unanimity required for joint action. A group of at least eight smaller EU states, led by Luxembourg, is attempting to take on Israel. They include Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Malta and Finland, EU diplomats say. Ranged against them are Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Latvia, Cyprus and Poland, all of which have shown themselves ready to defend Israel’s interests.  Read more.

Mixed Signals on Israeli Annexation Reflect Split Among Officials

U.S. and Israeli officials are divided on whether annexation is a means to get Palestinians to the table, or whether the peace plan is a means to get annexation.

David M. Halbfinger and Michael Crowley, New York Times, June 22, 2020

JERUSALEM — When President Trump’s Middle East team meets this week to hash out what to do about Israel’s planned annexation of territory in the West Bank, a fundamental question will hover overhead: Is the prospect of annexation a pressure tactic to get the Palestinians to engage with the administration’s peace plan, or is the peace plan just a smokescreen for annexation?  Read more.

A Nation Divided: Palestinian Views on War and Peace with Israel

David Pollock, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, June 2020

In recent years, Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank/East Jerusalem have generally become both more pessimistic and less reconciled to the prospect of peace with Israel. In recent years, popular backing for a two-state solution has become a minority view, while in earlier years the division was 60-40 in favour. Messaging from both Fatah and Hamas emphasizes their claim to “all of historic Palestine” – meaning the end of Israel as a separate state.

At the same time, majorities increasingly say that a two-state solution should not mean the end of conflict with Israel. Rather, 60% would opt to continue the struggle to “liberate all of historic Palestine.” The same proportion also says that any compromise with Israel should be only temporary. Moreover, large majorities deny that Jews have any connection or rights to any land in historic Palestine.

Majorities support specific forms of economic cooperation with Israel even now. Majorities even support resuming negotiations with Israel without preconditions. And they opposed their own governments’ diplomatic boycott of Washington and pre-emptive rejection of the U.S. peace plan. The public is split over continuing bonus payments to prisoners, rather than united behind this policy, as Palestinian officials claim. Read more.

The Palestinian Authority Isn’t Gunning for an Intifada. Hamas Might Be a Different Story

Zvi Barel, Haaretz, June 20, 2020

The Palestinian Authority finds itself in a trap, caught between a rock and a hard place, in the sober-eyed view of Dr. Ali al-Jirbawi, a former PA minister and a political science lecturer at Bir Zeit University, in the West Bank. “Our fundamental mistake,” he says, “was to continue the negotiations with Israel after 1999, the year in which the final stage of the Oslo Accords was supposed to conclude and a Palestinian state was supposed to be established.” He goes on to bemoan, in a recent interview with the Palestinian website Arabs of 48, the fact that the PA did not make the continuation of negotiations conditional on a rigid timetable and on a freeze of all Israeli construction in the territories. The PA should also have opposed the geographical division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C. Still, compared to the present situation, he said, at that time, “at least there was hope for the establishment of a Palestinian state and for the two-state solution.”  Read more.

‘The best time to implement sovereignty initiative is now’

Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom, June 19, 2020

…”[The initiative] improves the starting conditions of future negotiations with the Palestinians for Israel and crystallizes the cost of Palestinian rejection of peace talks, and therefore could spur [the Palestinians] back to the negotiation table in an effort to halt additional phases,” the paper said.

According to ministry analysts, international criticism of the initiative will wane after a short period of time.

“After a wave of diplomatic protests, mainly by governments, the annexation won’t rouse the Arab street against the regimes. The absence of agitation in the streets will make it clear to Arab leaders that the Palestinian issue isn’t a threat to them. Internalization of this insight could in the mid-term provide a platform for improving ties with Israel, without waiting for an Israeli-Palestinian arrangement,” the paper concluded.  Read more.

UAE official: Israel annexation may draw calls for one state

Ilan Ben-Zion, Associated Press, June 18, 2020

…Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told the Washington-based Middle East Institute that his country is committed to dialogue and the two-state solution to the decades-long conflict. But he added that “ultimately, I personally believe that if we are going where we are going today, and we lose the possibility of really implementing a two-state solution, we will really be talking about equal rights and one state.”

A binational state of Israelis and Palestinians would mean an end to Israel’s goal of being a democracy with a solid Jewish majority. Read more.

Jordan’s king warns on Israeli annexation

Reuters, June 17, 2020

Jordan’s King Abdulllah warned on Tuesday that Israel’s planned move to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank next month would threaten stability in the Middle East.

In a video conference with U.S. congressional leaders and committees, Abdullah “warned that any unilateral Israeli measure to annex lands in the West Bank is unacceptable and undermines the prospects of achieving peace and stability in the region,” a royal palace statement said. Read more.

Will a Palestinian ‘popular resistance’ lead to an Intifada?

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2020

The Palestinian Authority won’t allow scenes of anarchy and lawlessness, if and when Israel implements its plan to extend sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, PA officials in Ramallah said on Sunday.

On the other hand, the PA won’t stop Palestinians from holding mass demonstrations against the annexation, although it’s aware that the protests could lead to another intifada against Israel, the officials said.  Read more.

It’s Either Annexation or Normalization

Yousef Al Otaiba, Yedioth Ahronoth, June 12, 2020

Until recently, Israeli leaders have spoken enthusiastically about normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries. However, such talk contradicts the Israeli annexation plan.

By virtue of it being a unilateral and calculated course of action, a declaration to annex [territory in the West Bank] constitutes an illegal takeover of Palestinian land. It defies the Arab—in fact, the international—consensus regarding the Palestinian right to self-determination. It will ignite violence and rouse the extremists. It will send shock waves throughout the region. It will have an impact on Jordan in particular, the same Jordan from whose stability—which is sometimes taken for granted—the entire region benefits, especially Israel.  Read more.

Five reasons why the UAE’s unprecedented annexation warning to Israel matters

Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2020

Israelis woke up to a potential new era on Friday with an article by the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the US warning that Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank would “upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with the UAE.”

The message was titled “annexation or normalization.” This is an unprecedented warning coming from a country that doesn’t have relations with Israel but where relations appeared to have unique potential.

The article has several important ramifications, what follows are the top five. Read more.

Wrestling with Annexation

Robert Satloff, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, June 2020

Why is Israel poised to consider annexation of West Bank territory? A cost-benefit analysis argues for preserving the status quo. Israel already enjoys complete security control over the West Bank, its civil law already governs its citizens living there, and it has largely succeeded in normalizing the international community to continued growth in settlement activity. Most relevant actors—the Palestinian Authority, many Arab states, key European capitals, UN Security Council members, and the United States—have reconciled themselves to this reality and do not actively oppose it. Of course, the status quo is not cost-free and reaching a negotiated peace would be preferable, but this alternative has been both reasonably tolerable and surprisingly sustainable. Israel’s proven commitment to a negotiated peace with the Palestinians has been an essential pillar of the status quo.

Though actual peace talks have foundered for years, Israel’s embrace of the idea of peace—despite serial Palestinian rejections of statehood offers—has been central to allowing it to hold increasingly unchallenged control over the West Bank.  Read more.

Netanyahu to initially annex 3 settlement blocs, not Jordan Valley — officials

Shalom Yerushalmi, Times of Israel, June 10, 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will initially announce the annexation of three West Bank blocs, but not the Jordan Valley or other settlement areas, according to top Israeli officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to declare annexation over all of Israel’s West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley from the July 1 date permitted by his coalition deal with Alternate PM and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, subject to American approval. But earlier this week, he told settler leaders the non-settlement areas might have to wait.  Read more.

No Palestinian Leader Would Dare Negotiate with Israel

Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, June 8, 2020

The Palestinian leadership has been boycotting peace talks with Israel since 2014. Since 2017, the PA has also been boycotting the U.S. in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As far as the PA is concerned, Israel and the U.S. are now the main enemies of the Palestinians. It is prohibited to talk to any Israeli or U.S. official.

Growing anti-Israel and anti-U.S. sentiments among Palestinians are the direct result of the leadership’s continued incitement and fiery rhetoric. Day in and day out, Palestinian leaders drill into the minds of their people that Israel rejects peace and is committing “war crimes” against Palestinians.

When you radicalize your people against Israel in such a way, how can you expect Palestinian leaders not to veto meeting with Israelis? Under the current circumstances, it is impossible to talk about the resumption of a peace process when even a word about negotiations from a Palestinian leader sounds – at the very least – the death knell of his career. Read more.

We Cannot Justify Israel’s West Bank Annexation

In an unprecedented letter to Israel’s UK ambassador, prominent British Jews warn that annexation ‘poses an existential threat to the traditions of Zionism in Britain, and to Israel as we know it’ 

Luciana Berger, Malcolm Rifkind, Simon Schama, Howard Jacobson, Anthony Julius, Simon Sebag-Montefiore and 34 others, Haaretz, June 5, 2020

The following letter was sent by leading members of the UK Jewish community to Israel’s Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, Mark Regev:

Dear Mark,

We are writing to convey our concern and alarm at the policy proposal to unilaterally annex areas of the West Bank, as outlined in the coalition agreement of Israel’s new government. Read more.

Annexation will mean apartheid, warns Mandela ally who always fought comparison

Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, June 5, 2020

An early ally of Nelson Mandela, journalist and author Benjamin Pogrund was among the first Jews to fight the South African apartheid regime. After he moved to Israel in the 1990s, he fought the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state.

But if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with his plan to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, apparently without offering Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live in these areas, Israel will indeed turn into an apartheid state, Pogrund warned.  Read more.

The Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate With Israel and Trump Is a Cowardly, Fateful Mistake

Bishara A. Bahbah, Haaretz, June 2, 2020

The self-appointed Palestinian leadership in Ramallah – the PLO’s executive committee and Fatah’s central committee – met on Sunday, May 31, 2020, to discuss how to respond to Israel’s threats to proceed with the annexation of the Jordan Valley.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies interpret the Trump peace plan as allowing Israel to extend sovereignty over 30 percent of the West Bank come July 2020 should the Palestinians refuse to engage in peace negotiations.

Predictably, besides denunciations and rejection, the Palestinian leadership has nothing else to offer. The Palestinian leadership is in a state of mental paralysis. Depressingly and damagingly, this condition is counter to the interests of the Palestinian people.  Read more.

Sovereignty Is an Important Step towards Palestinian Defeat

Nave Dromi, Middle East Forum. May 27, 2020

Daniel Pipes is a renowned academic with an outstanding reputation. He is identified with the conservative right in the United States and promotes these views as the founder and president of the Middle East Forum thank tank and research institute. I am proud to run its Israeli office and help advance its central mission, that was born in Pipes’s thought and writings: the necessity of Israel’s victory over the Palestinians to end the conflict.

The victory concept is a big idea, consistent with the historic record, which holds that wars only end when one side gives up, meaning that our conflict will end and peace will arrive only when the Palestinians understand, or are made to understand, that their over 100-year violent rejectionist war against Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish people’s ancestral and indigenous homeland is over.  Read more.

What Would Ben-Gurion Do?

Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, May 28, 2020

My Middle East Forum colleague Nave Dromi disagrees with the negative view I expressed of Israel’s annexing some parts of the West Bank.

My six-part argument, as spelled out here, boils down to dismissing annexation as too-expensive symbolism. It brings no rewards but creates problems everywhere one looks. Therefore, I conclude, annexation obstructs her and my goal of an Israel Victory and Palestinian defeat.

Nave’s six-part argument, as presented here, holds that annexation advances that same goal: It puts territorial pressure on Palestinians. It guarantees security to all. It gives Israel the initiative. It seizes the moment. It has President Trump’s reliable backing. It enjoys wide support within Israel.

I accept most of these points, other than two: those about guaranteeing security (nothing on the ground changes) and about Trump (his volatile views cannot be predicted). But, for the sake of argument, I’ll even grant the one about Trump.

Even so, annexation’s benefits remain symbolic while the potential impact is entirely negative.  Read more.

Netanyahu’s Annexation Plans Meet Surprise Opponent: Israeli Settlers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to annex much of the occupied West Bank. But now that he can, there are questions about whether he will.

David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, New York Times, June 1, 2020

Having crushed his political opponents and won a new term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cleared a path to fulfilling his most polarizing campaign promise: annexing occupied West Bank territory, the long-held dream of right-wing Jewish settlers.

Yet with a month until he says he will apply Israeli sovereignty over large stretches of land the Palestinians have counted on for a future state, Mr. Netanyahu is suddenly facing stiff resistance, including a surprising rebellion in the ranks of the settler leaders who have been agitating for annexation for years.  Read more.

How Israeli Annexation Talk Is Already Reshaping the Middle East

Neri Zilber, Foreign Policy, May 19, 2020

TEL AVIV, Israel—With Israel weighing whether to annex parts of the West Bank in the coming months, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday that his self-governing administration in Ramallah would no longer be bound by existing agreements with the Jewish state, including security cooperation, in what could be the beginning of a violent spiral in the region.

Other Arab leaders have also warned Israel against annexing any West Bank territory, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who said last week that Israel was on course for a “massive conflict” with his country.

While annexation could be months off—and might not happen at all—the responses from the two leaders who stand to be affected most by any Israeli move underscored just how sensitive the issue is, even after more than 50 years of Israeli occupation of the territory. Read more.

The Palestinians Need to Make Bold Moves

Facing crisis, they should follow Arafat’s example by agreeing to negotiations.

Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2020

As speculation intensifies over possible Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, the Palestinian movement faces its greatest crisis since Israel became a state. The underlying problem for the Palestinian Authority is that the balance of power has shifted massively in favour of Israel, and as other countries recalibrate their policies in light of this reality, Palestinian options are narrowing faster than the authority’s leaders can adapt.  Read more.

The United States Doesn’t Get Israel Anymore

Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy, May 8, 2020

Ever since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White coalition, reached a deal on an emergency government, my email inbox has reached a critical mass of commentary, analyses, warnings, invitations to virtual briefings, and calls to action by an alphabet soup of organizations in the United States. The issue that has them so worked up is Israel’s planned annexation of land in the West Bank.

There’s indeed something shocking about this—but it’s less the annexation itself than Washington’s red-alert reaction to it.  Read more.

Annexing the West Bank Would Hurt Israel

A conservative American commentator on Middle Eastern affairs gives six reasons to believe that taking over Palestinian territory would harm both U.S.-Israel relations and Israel’s status as the Jewish state.

Daniel Pipes, New York Times, May 7, 2020

Thanks to the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, the topic of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank has moved from the fringe to the center of Israeli politics. The apparent non-involvement of the United States State Department in the issue has prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to state his confidence that annexation will happen within “a few months,” or before the American presidential election in November.

I am not someone who frets over the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank: in my view, the Palestinians long ago would have enjoyed self-rule had they stopped murdering Israelis. I ignore the Clinton Parameters, the former American president’s compromise formula to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict two decades ago. Contrarily, I do encourage Israeli steps that signal the Palestinians that the conflict is over, and they lost.

Despite these views, I strongly oppose Israel annexing any of the West Bank, and I do so for six main reasons. Read more.

Majority of Israel’s Jews oppose West Bank annexation, survey says

Itamar Eichner, Ynet News, May 6, 2020

The majority of Israel’s Jews do not support the annexation of disputed territories in the West Bank, says a new survey published on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted by the Commanders for Israel’s Security movement (comprised of senior security officials who oppose the extension of Israeli sovereignty to Palestinian-held lands), examined a sample of 1,000 people from the Jewish public alone.

According to the poll, only a quarter of the respondents (26%) said they support the potential annexation, while 40% prefer a permanent two-state solution, 22% favor unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians, while only 13% are content with the current situation.  Read more.

Why Netanyahu’s West Bank Plans Are Closer to Reality

Hopes from some that the U.S. or other countries will stop the annexation are misplaced. 

Zev Chafets, Bloomberg, April 28, 2020

On July 1, 2020, 53 years after Israel defeated three Arab armies and took control of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to begin the process of annexing the Jordan Valley areas and most of the Jewish communities in the territory.

He will do so at the head of a large government coalition that represents two-thirds of the Israelis, and with the blessing of the Americans. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it simply last week: “The Israelis will ultimately make those decisions.” The State Department said this week it was “ready to approve” Israel’s annexation, though it also asked Israel to engage in further negotiations with the Palestinians.  Read more.

The Consequences of Territorial Annexation 

Alon Ben-Meir, Algemeiner, April 28, 2020

The formation of an Israeli coalition government led by Bibi Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leaders of Likud and Blue and White, respectively, will finally put an end to Israel’s nearly 18 month-long political paralysis following three elections. Both agreed on a host of important socioeconomic and security matters.

The most ominous issue they strongly embraced, however, is the annexation of a substantial swath of West Bank territories based on Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan. Should Israel move to implement the plan, it will lead to dangerous consequences and drastically change Israel’s character as a democratic, Jewish state.  Read more.

Israel has lots at stake with annexation

Lawrence J Hass, The Hill, April 25, 2020

With Israel’s new “unity” government now set, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a decision in the coming weeks with huge consequences for Israel’s relations with America and the wider world: whether to begin the process of annexing major parts of the West Bank.

That’s because an Israeli decision to pursue annexation would strike at the heart of a longstanding belief in major world capitals that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement establishing permanent borders between the two sides will result from direct negotiations, not unilateral action.  Read more.