Reason for optimism on Israel-Palestine?
It wouldn’t be Davos if people weren’t speculating about the Arab-Israeli peace process -- but this year the talk seems especially gloomy. Even one of the region’s most indefatigable optimists, Jordan’s King Abdullah, said today that he was “somewhat pessimistic” about the chances for any movement.
“Pessimism pays” is always the right watchword when it comes to this subject. But just to be contrarian, here’s a sampling of some upbeat information that was overheard in the corridors this week.
After the tour of the region this month by George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy, there’s hope that the preliminaries of negotiations can get started in February. Mitchell has been discussing with Arabs and Israelis “terms of reference” for the talks, and also side letters that would be given to each of the key parties. These documents are said to spell out in more detail the positions the U.S. would take as the talks move forward.
The first step might be “proximity talks,” in which Mitchell shuttles back and forth between delegations, exchanging positions. Palestinian leader Abu Mazen is said to be ready to get on the peace-process train again; so is Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
This talk is worth less than a Davos snowball, if it doesn’t lead to quick public endorsement of a new round of negotiations. And I’m not making any predictions that it will lead to anything real. But it’s interesting that what you hear in private from officials knowledgeable about the process isn’t quite as pessimistic as what you hear in public.
| January 29, 2010; 10:37 AM ET
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