“Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it” Joshua 1:3

Abbas places unrealistic demands on Israel because he cannot push his Arabs to any concessions. He cannot sell them even the best peace offer as he is no one by now. His presidential term expired, and even Fatah opposes his government. Abbas’s weakness became his strength: the more he lacks, the more Obama gives him. Abbas gets American diplomatic support instead of the local one, Obama’s hugs instead of Haniye’s, American weapons instead of the basic hold on the ground. Obama will build Abbas into another Karzai, a despised and powerless puppet.

Obama tried a classic Harvard game of incremental confidence-building concessions: Israelis destroy outposts, Arabs partially lift the trade blockade, and so on. That cannot work because an attempt to dismantle any of the outlying settlements would kill Netanyahu’s government, and lifting the trade ban on Israel while the Gazans allegedly suffer would prompt major unrest in Arab countries.

Major conflicts imply major hostility on both sides and are closed to the goodwill path of incremental mutual concessions. They can only be finished in a sweeping agreement when one side is unquestionably defeated or both sides exhausted. These conditions do not exist now.

Hamas is split into two factions with opposite views. Hamas in Gaza is open to a two-state solution while Hamas in Syria wants nothing of it. The distinction is simple: in Gaza, Hamas leaders want a sort of the normal life, while in Damascus they are Iranian puppets paid for fanning the conflict. By cracking down on Hamas in Gaza, Israel strengthens the rejectionist camp in Damascus.

The Fatah-Hamas divide is artificial. The real difference is between the old and tired leadership and younger militants. The younger, the more militant: both Fatah and Hamas leaders face stiff competition from the younger generation of terrorists. Both groups have numerous factions; Fatah has a bit more of them. Cross-membership dulls the distinction between the groups. In a new Palestinian parliament, militants of various colors will cooperate against the moderate but powerless leaders.

Israeli concessions heavily provoke the Arabs. They have the example of Egypt which launched three wars against Israel and numerous offenses, but received 100% of its former land back. Israel’s very existence means that Palestinians get less than a 100% solution. They try to avoid the humiliation by dragging the talks. As Israel surrenders the West Bank towns to Fatah police and lifts movement restrictions, Palestinians have less reasons to negotiate. As Abbas pointed out, they lead normal life and can afford to wait indefinitely – especially so as their leaders cannot afford any concessions.

No Israeli government can dismantle many settlements. Even Ehud Barak supports natural growth of the existing villages. No Palestinian government can agree to leave them on the ground. No two nations can live with a border zipping around individual villages like a drunk’s path.

Two developments are possible. If, rather unlikely, Palestinian moderates win, they would offer Jewish settlers Palestinian citizenship, and a lot of settlers will accept it in order to avoid the dreaded Gush Katif-type eviction. More likely, Palestinians will embrace a single-state solution. That allows them to avoid conceding what they think is Palestinian land to Israel, and leaves an option of fighting Israel to death with pleasant demographic means.

Israeli government might react in three ways. It will restrict political influence of Palestinian residents as much as possible, perhaps through a confederation with the West Bank. Israel might unilaterally disengage from the territories by abandoning a few outlying settlements. Under a sensible government, Israel would realize that the West Bank Palestinians are too few to threaten her demographically, and incorporate Judea and Samaria into Israel, which is not a Jewish state, anyway.

The best thing about American pressure on Israel is that comes from a democratic government. Thanks to its short lifespan, no US administration can force on Israel a solution she does not want. Israeli-Egyptian peace was brokered frantically in Begin-Sadat negotiations with Carter claiming other men’s laurels. In a few months, Obama will enter into a deep crisis with Netanyahu, and the sides will cease productive communication. In a few years, Netanyahu’s government will collapse. By then, Obama will face reelection and won’t risk alienating Jewish voters. Then another president comes and it all starts over.

We fought with Syria, Egypt, and Iran three thousand years ago, and will continue fighting them in the centuries to come. The American democracy along with its rulers is just a blip on the radar of our history.