Among Western diplomats, momentum continues to gather behind the idea that the end of the Gaza war should be part of a wider negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, capped by the normalizing of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Top Biden adviser Brett McGurk went back to the Middle East this week to meet with regional governments, and a gathering of EU diplomats in Brussels included Israel’s newly minted foreign minister, Israel Katz.

The first main obstacle to this plan is the fact that how the war in Gaza ends will determine what’s possible thereafter. Hamas is opposed to any plan that doesn’t leave them intact in Gaza. Which is why they have been dangling the possibility of trading remaining hostages for a permanent ceasefire that requires the IDF and its surveillance drones to leave the entirety of the Gaza Strip. That’s obviously a nonstarter and would also derail any possibility of a Palestinian state emerging in the wake of a ceasefire. Hamas opposes the two-state solution, so removing it is a prerequisite for any statehood deal.

Pushing for a comprehensive deal right now favors Hamas in other ways, too. The inauguration of a major peace push tends to freeze the status quo in place, and the status quo includes Hamas. Plus, it concentrates international pressure on Netanyahu instead of the at-large leaders of the terror army that started this war and are still holding hostages (while promising to start another war). Shifting pressure from Hamas to the Israeli government mid-war makes no sense. Sure enough, the Europeans think it’s a great idea.

But there’s another problem with the timing. The idea of a two-state solution is usually more popular than the details of particular deals under consideration, once those details are spelled out. In this case, one of the least-popular details among Palestinians has been put up front, raising the question of whom exactly this new crop of peace-processors thinks they’re talking to.

The headline number from a new poll of Israelis is that a bare majority—51 percent—would support a Biden-backed “plan for ending the war that would see the release of all remaining hostages, Saudi Arabia agree to normalize relations with Israel, and Jerusalem agree to the eventual establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state.”

A deal that promised the return of the hostages and Saudi normalization up front with an “eventual” demilitarized Palestinian state is designed to poll well in Israel. Yet it doesn’t: 51 percent just isn’t very good for that plan. You need a wider base of support among Israelis if you’re going to start with a pot-sweetened version of the traditional plan. In this case, 51 percent isn’t cause for celebration, it’s a giant red flag that amounts to Israeli society saying: This is not the time.

But again, the Israelis are the least of the diplomats’ problems with this plan. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) has long found far more support among the Palestinians for a vague two-state solution than for one in which the Palestinian state would be demilitarized.

In 2016, for example, 51 percent of Palestinians said they supported a two-state solution, but only 39 percent if the deal is described as the following: “a de-militarized Palestinian state, an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line with equal territorial exchange, a family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty and the Muslim and Christian quarters and the al Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty, and the end of the conflict and claims.” And only 20 percent supported the specific detail of “demilitarization.”

Six months later, another poll found 22 percent support for it. In 2020, SPR found support for a demilitarized state had dropped to 12 percent. In 2022, it was 13 percent.

What is the point of this exercise, then? The point is to make Israel look like the intransigent party, to play up divisions within the unity government, and once again treat the Palestinians as if they have no agency, despite the fact that the reason a deal like this is such a longshot is because it would require the Palestinians to give up their armed struggle once and for all. Which is to say, the world is nearly back to treating Israel as if Oct. 7 had never happened.

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