The current US initiative sounds reasonable, but it is essentially unrealistic. Tony Blair, the new envoy of the Quartet (the US, the EU, the UN and Russia), has called for a "conference with substance." But Israel will be required to engage in peace talks only if the Palestinians crack down on terrorism -- that is, risk another Fatah-Hamas civil war -- and eliminate corruption.
Such a sequence -- and a conference whose harmless aim is "to review progress toward building Palestinian institutions, look for ways to support further reforms, and support the effort going on between the parties" -- fits perfectly with the Israeli view. But Palestinian militias have shown time and again that they will not give up the armed struggle before they see a Palestinian state along the lines of the 1967 borders, with Arab Jerusalem as its capital.
This is the fundamental pitfall of a strategy based on driving a wedge between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' "moderates" and Hamas' "extremists." If Abbas is to prevail, it will not be through "gestures" or a process focusing on "institution building," however important these may be. Nothing less than a full-fledged peace agreement that meets the fundamental aspirations of Palestinian nationalism is likely to give him the popular legitimacy needed to confront the radicals.
Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister who now serves as the vice-president of the Toledo Center for Peace.
Copyright: Project Syndicate