All it had to be was one more slip-up; one more gaffe with which Mitt Romney could have further flooded the gaffe market, further devaluing all the others. That would be the logical plan, and it seemed to be the one his campaign was following after it was reported that Romney had attributed the massive difference between Israelis’ and Palestinians’ per capita GDP to “culture” (and “the hand of providence”) while speaking to Jewish donors in Jerusalem Monday morning.
If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.
In his session with the press after an Oval Office discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Obama said, “We expect ... proximity talks to lead to direct talks, and I believe that the government of Israel is prepared to engage in such ... talks.” Indeed it is, without further ado and without preconditions. But it takes two to tango, and the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to initiate such talks unless Israel agrees to a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Click here to read Steven A. Cook on why we should expect the Palestinians to launch a third intifada. Israeli officials and experts were initially reacting to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's promise not to seek re-election in one of three ways: They believed him and didn’t really care; they believed him and worried about the possible vacuum following his disappearance from the political scene; or they didn’t believe him. Last week, the third option seemed to be the most common read in Jerusalem.