Likud and Habayit Hayehudi ministers have no reason to criticize the speech President Shimon Peres gave in Jordan on Sunday. Peres coordinated his trip with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and it seems that his speech did not deviate from the wide range of views held by government ministers about the peace process. As of Sunday night, it was impossible to get an authoritative answer of what Netanyahu thought of the speech, but it appears that Peres did not stray out of bounds.
In fact, Peres quarreled with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the stumbling block preventing the resumption of peace negotiations: the unwillingness of the Palestinians to return to talks without preconditions. Participants at the World Economic Forum conference in Jordan, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (who promoted a plan to boost the Palestinian economy), could see that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah doesn't plan on resuming peace negotiations. This is still the case, even if there is also room for suspicion that the Israeli government lacks a similar intention.
Abbas on Sunday disparaged the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in temporary borders. Abbas demanded nothing less than the 1967 borders and said he was not open to interim deals. It looked as if Abbas was arguing with Peres, but those familiar with the stalled peace process know that Abbas' positions were also contrary to those of former Minister Yossi Beilin (who meets with Abbas often) and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
In recent years, there has been a growing impression that Abbas is comfortable with the continuation of the existing situation. He has sought diplomatic achievements at the United Nations and has pushed for strengthening boycotts of Israel, but he has shown no will for real discussions.
Perhaps the stiffening of the Palestinian position has been based on an assessment that the Israeli government is not interested in the two-state solution. The growing extremism of the Palestinian approach has been nourished by the support given to Abbas by the U.S., which now also includes the economic plan announced by Kerry on Sunday.
It isn't the conditions set by both sides that are thwarting the resumption of negotiations, but rather the heavy doubt that either side is even interested in such negotiations given the political situations in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Both leaderships fear the undermining of their authority and the result is the ongoing failure of the peace process.
U.S. aid to the Palestinians isn't bad in and of itself, but it would be preferable if it were accompanied by a demand that the Palestinians drop their preconditions for meaningful talks with Israel. The problem is that (as illustrated by U.S. President Barack Obama's speech on terrorism last week) the U.S. is perceived as weak and is losing its ability to advance its positions regarding the peace process. The Middle East is looking for a responsible adult to manage complex negotiations. That adult must also be balanced.