Steven J. Rosen reports in the “Mideast Peace Deal You Haven’t Heard About,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 19, 2009:
"Now, below the radar, Netanyahu is making a series of additional concessions to Barack Obama and his Mideast peace envoy, George Mitchell. Their current priority is negotiating 'terms of reference' to permit the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (TORs in negotiators' vernacular). Dismissed by some as mere 'talking about talking,' TORs are in fact vital elements to create the parameters for serious negotiations….
"Mitchell's challenge today is to define such a framework that can bridge differences between Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas. Defying skeptics who say you can bridge a river but not an ocean, Mitchell keeps going at it, and his perseverance is paying off. While no one was watching, Netanyahu has in fact agreed to language that Mitchell can accept. With the Israeli agreement in his pocket, Mitchell is now working to bring Abbas around, according to sources close to the discussions.
"…Netanyahu has accepted a solution based on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's formulation: 'an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.'"
The breakthrough is in Netanyahu's acceptance of the Clinton formula, which represents a recognition of the principle that Israel will ultimately have to withdraw from the West Bank, with agreed land swaps enabling Israel to retain what it defines as "settlement blocs."
Netanyahu met with Egyptian president Mubarak this week to present the agreements he has reached with the Obama administration to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, and is reported to have asked for Mubarak's help in swaying Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to move forward with negotiations.
For more on the terms of the agreement, see “Netanyahu: No more excuses - time is ripe for Mideast peace,” Ha’aretz, Dec. 28, 2009
And for insightful commentary see Moshe Yaroni, “A Most Unlikely Source of Hope,” Zeek:
“…if Mitchell has been able to establish a framework for the talks and if the Obama Administration, now that the healthcare reform battle seems largely over, is ready to take an active role in the talks that come out of this, there is a real chance something could happen.
"To be sure, the issues themselves remain thorny and none of this addresses the issue of Gaza and the split among the Palestinians. Still, given the events of the past year, if serious talks in a realistic framework begin, that is a major step forward and would go a long way to restoring both the credibility of Barack Obama on this issue and rekindling the hope he campaigned on.”
Will new negotiations under Obama's leadership result in the emergence of a Palestinian state living in peace and security side by side with Israel?
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have brought about important security and economic achievements in the West Bank over the last two years in close cooperation with Israel and the U.S.
Three-time Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times foreign affairs correspondent Thomas Friedman reports that:
“…[F]or the first time since Oslo, there is an economic-security dynamic emerging on the ground in the West Bank that has the potential…to give the post-Yasir Arafat Palestinians another chance to build the sort of self-governing authority, army and economy that are prerequisites for securing their own independent state. A Palestinian peace partner for Israel may be taking shape again. The key to this rebirth was the recruitment, training and deployment of four battalions of new Palestinian National Security Forces — a move spearheaded by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority.”
Israeli columnist Ari Shavit reports in Ha’aretz that:
“The quiet [in the West Bank] is maintained by unprecedented cooperation between the IDF and the five Palestinian security branches. The coordination among the branches, and between them and the Palestinian Authority and Israel, has never been so close. Unlike the Oslo era, this time there is no whitewashing, overlooking and pretending. There are no revolving doors. Two Israeli field commanders…and five Palestinian field operators have achieved a security miracle in the West Bank…[T]he overwhelming majority in the West Bank [has] finally started functioning as a secular-pragmatic public. Many Palestinians [have] stopped acting and thinking as victims. Under Fayyad’s leadership they have taken their fate into their own hands and started building their future.”
Friedman concludes: “The only way the Palestinian leadership running this show can maintain its legitimacy is if it is eventually given political authority, not just policing powers, over the West Bank – or at least a map that indicates they are on a pathway there. America must nurture this virtuous cycle: more money to train credible Palestinian troops, more encouragement for Israel’s risk-taking in eliminating checkpoints, more Palestinian economic growth and quicker negotiations on the contours of a Palestinian state in the West Bank…”
Shavit concurs: “If U.S. special envoy George Mitchell develops a creative peace plan for his president, it may be possible to avoid past mistakes. This new plan must be based on Fayyad and his way. It must bring the Palestinians closer to a state in a decisive but realistic way…it must establish a practical dynamic of hope. Obama’s challenge this autumn is to give the West Bank revolution a peace horizon…”
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 Thomas Freidman, “Green Shoots in Palestine II,” The New York Times, August 9, 2009.
 Ari Shavit, “A Peace Horizon,” Ha’aretz, August 20, 2009.