In the minefields of Middle East peace diplomacy, what you see is often not what you get. Over the years both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have become adept at maneuvers that conceal their real goals. The fact is that distinguishing reality from diplomatic and political posturing is difficult in the best of times.
Just when the conversion crisis seemed to have abated, with a six-month hiatus in place for the controversial bill proposed by Knesset Member David Rotem, the Israeli High Court of Justice was the scene this week of a new setback — one that could undermine negotiations under way to resolve the deeply troubling issue.
For all the major obstacles that remain, last week’s Washington summit, which featured the first direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in 20 months, represented an important step forward.
As was widely reported, the atmospherics at the State Department were positive. President Barack Obama, learning from his early mistakes, made it clear he rejects imposed solutions, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed a willingness to put her reputation and political future on the line by taking a leadership role in the talks.
As direct negotiations resume this week between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, there is a degree of optimism in Washington, though it is hard to say whether that is the result of signs of progress or naivete.
The government of Israel will be losing a key and effective diplomat in New York just when it needs her most.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, highly praised for her low-key, thoughtful and compassionate work these last two years, is returning to Israel and her academic life at the end of this month on the eve of what some Israeli officials here are already predicting will be a “Black September” for the Jewish state at the UN.