But the real work – for Egypt and the Palestinians – lies ahead. In order to achieve an independent Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders, both actors will need to work with both the U.S., under President Donald Trump and Israel, under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. And, on this front, expectations are low.

Seeking the ″ultimate deal″

Trump claims that he will deliver the ″ultimate deal″ to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. But Trump and Netanyahu, feeding each other′s hawkishness, both remain unwilling to accept what the rest of the world views as the basic premise of any good deal: a two-state solution. And the ageing Abbas is unlikely to accept whatever bad deal the decidedly pro-Israel Trump administration offers.

Even that futile scenario might be optimistic, as it assumes that talks get off the ground – an impossible feat, if Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Such activities are not just unjust; they are in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted nearly unanimously last year (the U.S., then led by Barack Obama, abstained). That resolution demanded ″that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem″ – activities that amount to a ″flagrant violation under international law″.

Palestinian loss of land: 1946 - present (source: MSNBC)
Hanging out for the ′ultimate deal′: Trump and Netanyahu, feeding each other′s hawkishness, remain unwilling to accept what the rest of the world views as the basic premise of any good deal: a two-state solution

Any agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will require deep concessions by both sides – concessions that leaders on both sides will need to convince their respective publics to accept. Trump′s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with settling the conflict and the Trump administration′s chief negotiator on the issue, Jason Greenblatt, seem to understand this.

Egypt certainly does, having made it clear that a divided Palestinian leadership without a public mandate, like the one to be delivered by new elections, will be unable to carry out serious negotiations or win popular support for any eventual agreement.

The question is whether the Israelis will be willing to make such concessions, allowing either a two-state solution or a system of genuine and credible power-sharing within a single state. If they aren′t, the recent Palestinian reconciliation, however positive, will not mark the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will merely be the start of a new chapter in the struggle for freedom for Palestinians.

Daoud Kuttab

© Project Syndicate 2017

Daoud Kuttab, a former professor at Princeton University and the founder and former director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah, is a leading activist for media freedom in the Middle East.

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