Summer 2012. Israel's elections have been delayed until late next year by the formation of a new coalition government. The "Arab Spring" is producing Muslim Brotherhood victories, Salafi gains, chaos in Syria, disorder in Egypt, tremors in Jordan. Iran's nuclear program moves steadily forward despite tougher sanctions and ongoing negotiations between Iran and the world's major powers. In the United States, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney begin to face off in the upcoming presidential election.
Amid these developments, the so-called "peace process" will enter its 46th year on June 10. For it was on that day in 1967 that a cease-fire in the Six-Day War was declared, leaving Israel in possession of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, the Golan Heights, and Jerusalem but divided over what to do with its newfound gains.
Israel withdrew from the Sinai in 1982 and from Gaza in 2007, and no one is discussing the Golan these days due to Syria's internal crisis. But the future of Jerusalem and the West Bank remains a matter of intense international -- including American -- diplomatic effort. While professional peacemakers may want to get negotiations going again, the inconvenient truth is that none of the parties to this conflict have adequate incentives to take serious political risks right now. Forget about reaching a final settlement for the next year and likely far longer -- neither the situation on the ground nor the politics in Israel and among the Palestinians makes it at all likely.