U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has delayed his upcoming trip to Israel indefinitely. Officially, the trip was postponed due to Kerry's preoccupation with the situation in Syria, but an equally important reason was probably the refusal of the Palestinians to accept Kerry's demand that they drop their preconditions for the renewal of peace negotiations with Israel.
Kerry had apparently hoped to bypass this roadblock with at least a partial curbing of Israeli settlement construction over the Green Line and a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in support of the principle of two states for two peoples. But his hopes were for naught, due to the unsurprising ongoing Palestinian recalcitrance.
A sober view of the situation should lead any observer to the conclusion that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership have no intention of changing their strategic decision to avoid any real negotiations with Israel. Their insistence on preconditions -- for example, advance Israeli consent to the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state, the complete halt of Israeli construction over the Green Line (including in Jerusalem), and the release by Israel of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists -- is consistent with the tactics they have been using, including the U.N. statehood bid. The Palestinians are doing everything to avoid the possibility of becoming involved in a process that will require compromises and concessions on their part (for example, the refugee issue, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and an end-of-conflict declaration).
In this context, it should be noted that Kerry's June 3 speech to American Jewish Community Global Forum -- which among a plethora of remarks friendly toward Israel and the Jewish people also included statements that could be interpreted as rebukes to Israel regarding the peace issue -- encouraged the Palestinians to maintain their obstinacy. Kerry is still enthusiastic about the cosmetic change Arab League representatives made to their peace initiative several weeks ago (the acceptance of the concept of land swaps). Kerry seemingly doesn't understand that, in its current form, the Arab League's proposal is not a peace initiative at all, but rather a dictate that, unlike President Barack Obama's statements in Ramallah in March, puts the cart (Israeli concessions) before the horse (vague promises of peace).
The policy of Netanyahu and his government is clear. As Netanyahu said during his trip to Poland last week, the goal is to put an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of a "demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, with iron clad security arrangements for Israel." This formula is nothing new and the framework it provides for the establishment of Palestinian state likely won't be accepted by the Palestinians and their supporters (by the way, there are many options within this framework). But it clearly doesn't rule out the two-state outline.
Meanwhile, Kerry will certainly continue his Sisyphean efforts to find any possible way to renew the peace process and Israel welcomes this. But Kerry's chances for success don't appear particularly rosy at the moment. Kerry may not be a member of Obama's inner circle of advisers (which include new National Security Adviser Susan Rice, new U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and especially the powerful and influential White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough), but Kerry's efforts do currently enjoy the president's full support.
As written in a critical book (that was perhaps too critical) recently published by a former U.S. government official, the guiding principle of Obama's foreign policy is the level of public support for it. It can therefore be assumed that Obama will be happy to be a full partner in a successful venture. But in the case of a failure, Obama will definitely prefer to leave it to Kerry.