Tony Karon in The National:
Mr Obama has certainly not been deterred by failure thus far. His envoy, George Mitchell, is in the region pressing the two sides to begin final-status negotiations, but there is little belief on either side that a peace agreement is possible. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declared that any attempt to reach a final settlement for years to come is misguided and doomed to fail, and the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior aide, Uzi Arad, has said much the same.
On the Palestinian side, the president, Mahmoud Abbas, grows ever weaker. His political demise was accelerated last week by Palestinian fury over his decision to sideline the Goldstone report into alleged war crimes during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in January. Fatah has instructed Mr Abbas to stay out of any talks with Mr Netanyahu until the Israelis commit to the settlement freeze demanded by the Obama administration. And his likely successor as the head of Fatah, the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, says anyone who believes it possible to negotiate peace with the current Israeli government is “delusional”.
Moreover, Mr Obama could soon have more to worry about than the absence of progress. Ominous echoes are everywhere of the conditions that brought about the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, which left thousands dead and destroyed the Oslo peace process.