How to get Netanyahu, Abbas to the table — that’s the question

Alan Dershowitz (“Obama, slow your roll on Mideast peace process,” Opinion, Oct. 26) is right to suggest that, once again, a lame-duck president may give it a final push to help birth a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. At a recent Harvard Program on Negotiation, Israeli Gilead Sher and Palestinian Khalil Shikaki agreed that this is exactly what President Obama should do.

Dershowitz agrees that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should sit down and engage in direct talks. But he wants the US president to refrain from making a statement that might boost UN involvement in the negotiations. Dershowitz fails to say what, short of international diplomatic pressure, might induce the two parties to resume negotiations.

Sher and Shikaki suggested that the current lack of political will is eroding hope and trust among Israelis and Palestinians. Sher worried that inaction places Israel on a slope to binational apartheid. For Shikaki, the “no-partner” syndrome erodes Palestinians’ trust in their secular nationalists.


If the two parties in this conflict cannot get to the table, someone else will step in. If not the American president, French and Russian presidents are waiting in the wings.

Michael Zank


The writer is a professor of religion, and director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, at Boston University.