The American politician Tip O’Neill once famously observed “that all politics is local.”  Had O’Neill been an Israeli, he might have added: “but local politics often has international consequences.”  The as yet uncertain results of the Israeli election have considerable implications internationally.  They suggest a movement toward the center and away from the extremes.  This, in turn, makes it more likely that the Israeli government might have more flexibility in dealing with the Palestinian Authority and in moving toward a two-state solution.  There is also some suggestion that the Palestinian Authority may be prepared to soften its refusal to sit down with the Israelis until after a total settlement freeze is agreed upon. 

In September I spoke to President Mahmoud Abbas and suggested to him a formula for restarting negotiations:  He would agree to sit down and begin negotiations without Israel having frozen settlements, with the understanding that only after he began good faith negotiations, would Israel initiate a settlement freeze.  The plan also contemplated a quick and rough division of the West Bank into three areas:  those that would almost certainly remain part of Israel; those that would almost certainly become part of a Palestinian state; and those that are reasonably in dispute.  As to the first, there would be no limitation on building; but as to the second and third, a freeze would remain in effect until final borders were agreed upon, so long as the negotiations continued in good faith. 

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