Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement with Israeli...

Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat during a press conference on the Middle East Peace Process Talks at the Department of State in Washington, DC. (July 30, 2013 Credit: Getty Images

Suspend your cynicism. As a new round of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis begins, four recent developments suggest that this time they may actually succeed.

First, the European Union boycott of Israeli settlements has begun to have an impact. When more than two dozen European countries recently announced a policy of economic sanctions on products manufactured by Israeli settlers, the message was clear: The EU considers the Israeli occupation illegitimate and a violation of international law. After the United States, Europe is the second most important friend and partner of Israel. The EU boycott has suddenly given Israel pause.

The second relevant event comes from the isolation of Hezbollah. Syria's civil war may be Hezbollah's Vietnam. Hezbollah's military diversion from fighting Israel to aiding the Assad government in Syria may have given the Israelis some security.

The third factor is the new government in Egypt. The post-Morsi regime seems to be keen on limiting the power of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza and functioned as an armed challenge to Israel. For reasons of its own, the new government in Cairo has closed the majority of secret tunnels that link Gaza with Egypt and that Hamas has routinely used.

Today, like Hezbollah, Hamas is weak, and Israel has never been safer militarily.

Except for Iran, which is the fourth reason Israel may be anxious to come to the table.

Iran remains a top priority for Israel. The new moderate Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, complicates matters because he is harder to demonize than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Israel wishes to face what it considers to be a nearly nuclear-ready Iran with maximum diplomatic strength. And so it seems now to be accepting the idea that it must negotiate some level of withdrawal from the 1967 borders.

If this round of peace talks fails, it may mark the end of the peace process. And that fear could be the biggest impetus of all for making a historic compromise and settling this 65-year dispute once and for all.

Ghassan Michel Rubeiz is the former secretary of the Middle East for the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.


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