After a working dinner Monday night at the State Department, negotiators for Palestine and Israel were scheduled to meet once more on Tuesday before returning home.
They might already be airborne, but the two opening sessions offer hope for a fresh start.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, backed by a majority of his cabinet, was a clear investment of his reputation in a process with a long ways to go. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is taking his own political risks.
The next round of talks is in the Middle East where the popular support for peace is substantial, if not for the details. A Palestinian state next to Israel with negotiated borders and security plans has been a hypothetical possibility for years, but now it is starting to bud.
The tireless work of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is an obvious influence in making these direct talks happen, but the other motivations are not yet apparent. One can predict that domestic politics in Israel play a role, along with the fatigue and expense of a constant state of diplomatic and military tension. Is Netanyahu contemplating his legacy, as some suggest? Given his past rhetoric and actions, there is a Nixon-to-China quality to this effort.
Otherwise, Netanyahu has said tensions elsewhere in the Middle East are pushing these two neighbors to settle their differences. Whatever the incentives, the practical reality of these face-to-face meetings is most encouraging.