In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost his gamble of calling early elections. What he thought would be a landslide reaffirmation of his policies turned into a very narrow victory and an unexpected coalition government. I've written previously that we would have to watch for signs of how the new government would approach the Palestinians.
Now, just days before Secretary of State John Kerry makes his fourth visit to the region to restart the peace process, we get another indication of how the new Israeli government will proceed.
On Sunday, finance minister and senior coalition partner Yair Lapid proposed negotiating an interim agreement. The agreement would establish temporary borders of a Palestinian state while providing time to resolve the more contentious issues such as status of Israeli settlements, the right of return, and Jerusalem.
Under Lapid's plan, President Obama would endorse a three-year deadline for the establishment of a permanent border as well as allow Israel to keep some settlements. However, many of the West Bank settlements would be dismantled.
There appears to be some willingness to explore a temporary option, both in Israel and the U.S. The Palestinian government, at least in the past, has not been receptive. Whether the idea of a temporary agreement is discussed next week when Kerry is in Jerusalem is unknown.
With Lapid and Justice Minister and Chief Palestinian negotiator Tzipi Livni as part of the government, the peace process may be getting a boost. It has also been mentioned that Netanyahyu is concerned about his political legacy and would like to finalize a peace agreement. Will this plan, along with the Arab League proposal to discuss borders, be the stimulus to reach that goal? Time will tell, but the prospects are looking better than they have for quite some time.