In the American capital, the Palestinian-Israeli issue is nicknamed "Kerry's baby," somewhat mockingly and somewhat pityingly. From the moment he has taken office, he won't let go. Target-oriented, he shows he is determined to lead to the two-state solution. Kerry has succeeded so far by wrapping the package in a tempting way and giving his interlocutors in the Middle East what they like the most: A big hug.
He spoke to Abbas and Netanyahu pleasantly. He told them softly what they had heard before blatantly and defiantly. At the same time, Kerry had to ward off the waves of criticism in the American media, charging that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was taking up too much of his time and that he had better invest his energy in bleeding Syria and collapsing Egypt. Kerry thought he could do both.
And President Obama did give him the go ahead, when Kerry explained that he was about to make peace no matter what, because it could happen now or never. But he did not do it enthusiastically or with a lot of faith. Obama learned a chapter or two in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his first term, when he was filled with enthusiasm to bring a peace agreement.
In his second term, he distanced himself from the issue completely, was close to giving up and said he could not help the parties unless they wanted to help themselves. Until Kerry came along and managed to convince the president to give the Middle East its last chance. The president agreed with a shrug, as if saying: "When you get down to business, bring me the pen."
Official America is not a big believer that there is a chance the seeds sown by Kerry in the Middle East will lead to a peace agreement budding during the talks in Washington. The American capital has hosted such talks which ended in nothing too many times. They know that when it comes to the Middle East's bazaar, the money is always counted on the stairs.
This the reason Obama remains reserved. In the past week he telephoned Netanyahu once, did not speak to Abbas at all, and surprisingly did not even release a public statement welcoming the development. State Department officials did applaud Kerry when he got on the plane after receiving the parties' approval to renew the talks, but the White House is in no rush to prepare the champagne.
Ahead of the resumption of the talks, the American host is preparing a large wallet alongside a serious warning. Both sides have been told that if one of them walks out of the talks before a solution is achieved, the US will not hesitate to point a finger at that side. On the other hand, if progress is made and an agreement is reached, the large American wallet will be opened wide: The sides will receive aid packages – Israel to prepare its new borders, and the Palestinians to establish a state.
But the bitter skepticism and great cynicism cannot take away his achievement, and this week no one can ignore Kerry's success.