The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process.
Such an evaluation inevitably leads to the conclusion that a comprehensive agreement to end the conflict is not within easy reach. The Palestinians long ago took a decision to reject the two-state solution as Israelis and most American policymakers envision it.
The Palestinian state that Israelis might be able to support in Judea, Samaria and Gaza cannot threaten Israel's security -- meaning that it must be truly demilitarized, cannot form hostile foreign alliances, will dismantle the Hamas army and hand over its weaponry, agree to Israeli monitors on all its external borders, and accept a permanent Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley to prevent the emergence of another radical Islamic bastion on Israel's eastern border. (Sinai-stan, Hama-stan, Hezbollah-stan, and Syria-stan are already more than enough for Israel to handle).
The Palestinian state that Israelis might be able to support in Judea, Samaria and Gaza must be also a reasonable neighbor and willing to compromise -- meaning that will not contain any large Israeli settlement blocs, cannot control and destroy Jerusalem, and must share its airspace, natural resources, and historical and religious sites with Israel.
The Palestinian state that Israelis can envision, if at all, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has to agree to a permanent end to the conflict and all claims on Israel -- meaning that it renounces the right of return, inculcates reconciliation and not anti-Semitism on its airwaves and in its schools, and recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
But the Palestinians reject this vision. They view Israel's contours for a two-state solution as a "sovereign cage." They are simply not interested in such a solution. They do not crave a "statelet" on the 1967 borders (or less). They certainly feel no urgency about achieving it. I have yet to meet or hear from a Palestinian leader who is prepared to settle with Israel along these lines, even if Israel hands over 100 percent of the West Bank.
As the prominent Palestinian advisor Professor Ahmad Khalidi has said: "The concept of Palestinian statehood is nothing but a punitive construct devised by our worst enemies -- the United States and Israel -- to constrain Palestinian aspirations and territorial ambitions."
Or as Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas made clear to U.S. President Barack Obama last month, the Palestinian liberation movement will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state or agree to forgo the so-called "right" of refugee return. He wants his state, but without an end to the conflict. He wants a state, rather, in order to continue the conflict.
In fact, there is no internal Palestinian constituency whatsoever pressing Abbas to compromise now and cut an end-of-conflict deal with Israel. Instead, the Palestinians really think they can pressure Israel by recourse to international institutions, in order to push Israel back from its red lines.
Given this reality, and given the Arab earthquakes that are destabilizing Israel's borders, it is folly to shoot for an unattainable "historic" breakthrough in Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy.
Rather, what is now required are strong Israeli and international countermeasures against the punch-drunk Palestinian leadership. Israel must act to knock some realism into Palestinian thinking.
It is time to dial down Palestinian expectations and to roll back Palestinian maximalism.
Before any realistic peacemaking might possibly emerge, Palestinian leadership must be disabused of the notion that it can harm and coerce Israel by appealing to international courts and tribunals.
Time is on Israel's side, as Israel is the stronger party. Israel should flex a bit of muscle and evince perseverance in this battle of wills.