Can Mideast peace efforts move past yearlong stall?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on Thursday, May 14.

Story highlights

  • Many jaded about prospects for lasting peace
  • Palestinians want official recognition from Israeli government

Jerusalem (CNN)Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got about 30 seconds into his speech on the evening of the Knesset's swearing-in ceremony when he ran into his problems. After thanking members of the legislative body, Netanyahu talked about "maintaining security and striving for peace."

A member of Knesset, sitting in the plenum, yelled out, "What peace?!" The Knesset descended into a moment of laughter, as some members shouted at Netanyahu as he tried to get through his speech.
Perhaps that exchange Thursday best sums up the current feelings toward the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For all of the statements and comments, it seems few people have legitimate faith that the peace process and the negotiations can make any serious progress if they're restarted.
    Doubts about furthering the peace process have existed ever since the last round of negotiations fell apart in April 2014.
    They only got stronger when Netanyahu said on the eve of the latest elections that there would not be a Palestinian state under his premiership. The coalition guidelines for the new government mention furthering the diplomatic process, but make no specific mention of a Palestinian state or a two-state solution.
    Netanyahu walked back his comments after the elections. In an NBC interview after the elections, Netanyahu said he still supports a Palestinian state. "I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution." But he said "circumstances have to change" for that to happen.
    But the damage was already done.
    "I think he is not believing in a two-state solution, and he is acting against it by encouraging settlements and enlarging settlements," said Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli-Arab member of the Joint List.
    Netanyahu's 61-seat right-wing government is, in large part, a government meant to tackle domestic issues and push through domestic reforms, though that could be very difficult with a bare-minimum coalition. Since most parties are ideologically similar, it should be, at least theoretically, easy to agree on some reforms.
    But the risk of a right-wing government is that it will face tremendous international pressure to return to the negotiating table. The White House said it would "reassess" the relationship between Israel and the United States in light of Netanyahu's pre-election comments.

    Palestinians try another route

    Both Netanyahu and President Barack Obama have said the strategic and military cooperation would continue. Perhaps the biggest change will be at the United Nations, where the United States could recognize a Palestinian state by declining to use its Security Council veto in the event of another statehood bid. The last bid fell one vote short of passage at the Security Council in December 2014.
    In light of the stalled peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority has instead bypassed the Israelis and gone straight to the international community, pushing for recognition at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Perhaps this is where they see more possibilities, as they have already made some progress and see the potential for more. Even if they fail, the attempt puts more international pressure on Israel.
    In the days after the March 17 elections, Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said of the results, "I've negotiated with them for 20 years, and I complained to the international community that there is a big difference between someone being a tough negotiator which is legitimate and someone being a non-negotiator.
    "All Netanyahu needs to do to gain the credibility and the trust, not only of me but of the international community, he needs to stand tall and tell the Israeli people that in order to live in peace with our neighbors we're going to have to recognize the state of Palestine."
    It seems the Palestinians -- and many others in the international community -- have little hope of that happening.