The expected announcement of a new round of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials is the fruit of labor from the United States in the form of Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry has been a key element in breaking ground for the dormant peace process, but unfortunately, peace is beyond his power. Even at the table, we're not going to see a substantial peace accord anytime soon, but Kerry's attempts are a seed of change for long-term growth relies in regional diplomacy.
The peace talks effectively ended in 2010, as the region as a whole has met a new array of challenges following the Arab Spring. The civil war in Syria has now boiled over to a sphere of violence in other countries, even affecting Israel. Additionally, the international community has been giving more credence to the idea of a Palestinian state, including UN recognition. Naturally, the U.S. would want to try and jump start the process again.
In this pursuit, Kerry has been the most dedicated actor. However, Israel and Palestine are just one problem. The Syrian civil war has taken a larger role in international relations than the Obama administration had anticipated. Kerry was chastised by Syrian refugees in Jordan for the lack of action from the U.S. and other western liberal democracies.
The Kerry camp at the State Department has dropped hints that regional talks are a key approach to the two-state process. Kerry's trip to Jordan and meetings with the Arab League, who have voiced support for Kerry's not-yet-public plan, shows an approach that doesn't completely rely on just the U.S., Israel, and Palestine.
Israel and Palestinian alone have shown difficulty in bilateral discourse in the past, hence the breakdown of talks. The issues of negotiating borders, land swaps, and settlement buildings have plagued all talks. Israel spiked settlement construction rates earlier this summer, and various Israeli officials have given different public opinions of the effectiveness of peace talks. Even if both parties get to the table, a comprehensive plan is unlikely in the near future.
Yet, Kerry's attempts are not in vain; there is something to say for getting the two parties back at the table with the neighbors watching. On a basic level, peace talks are better than no peace talks. What makes Kerry's approach unique is a combination of increased participation on the part of the U.S. and the inclusion of other regional actors. Consulting neighboring states is not a new concept, but within the context of the political upheaval across the map, Kerry's approach may be the most effective.
Now, there's no guarantee that Kerry's attempts will work. We may not see the impacts of today's actions for years to come, but there is a kernel of hope with the use of more diplomatic channels, rather than continuing the hawkish practices of military intervention. The Middle East has a longer path to peace than we can walk, but a few steps down that road are steps in the right direction. Let's see if Kerry can lace up his walking shoes.