Kerry Can Restart Negotiations, But Can He Finish Them?

After six trips to the Middle East in four months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s intensive shuttle diplomacy has finally borne fruit. In a major announcement last Friday, the secretary declared that Israeli and Palestinian leaders had “reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations,” which have been stalled since September 2010. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators could meet in Washington as early as this week.

The fact that bringing the parties back to where they were three years ago is considered a breakthrough is a sign of just how low the bar has dropped. Moreover, while Kerry may have succeeded in getting the parties into negotiations it is far less clear that he can keep them there, much less get them out with an agreement.

Although details have not yet been made public, the deal reportedly includes a U.S. commitment that negotiations would be based on the 1967 lines and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, but would not require either party to accept any particular provision. In addition to negotiations, Kerry has put together an impressive package of economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other confidence building measures, including a major prisoner release.

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