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Hillary Clinton meets with Palestinian and Israeli. Is something cooking?

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process seems to be stirring, and the US is calling it 'very much alive.' But analysts doubt anything significant can be achieved before the US elections in November.

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After his meeting with Clinton, Erekat told reporters that the Palestinians "want to resume negotiations," but he said Israel's settlement policy stands in the way. He said Netanyahu "has a choice to make: settlements or peace." 

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Erekat is in Washington even as the Palestinian leadership revives talk of going to the United Nations to unilaterally declare statehood. Mr. Abbas tried that maneuver last year, forcing President Obama to declare to the world his opposition to Palestinian statehood not arrived at through negotiations with Israel – even though Obama had made himself the champion of peace through Palestinian independence from the outset of his presidency.

Last year Mr. Abbas took his bid to the Security Council, where it died under the American promise of a veto, but this year he could try the General Assembly – a purely symbolic move, since the General Assembly has no power to recognize new states, but one that the US nevertheless wishes to avoid.

Mofaz, a former defense minister and army chief of staff, has caused a stir in Israel with his view that failure to arrive at a two-state solution poses a long-term threat to Israel as a Jewish state, and that an unresolved Palestinian conflict poses a more imminent threat to Israel than Iran’s nuclear program.

But little suggests that Mofaz’s views are shared by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Domestic political considerations – and not shared viewpoints on the Palestinian issue – prompted Mr. Netanyahu to bring in Mofaz, the head of the centrist Kadima party, as deputy prime minister last month, analysts say.

By his own accounts before leaving Israel for the US, Mofaz planned to seek US support for reviving the stalled peace process in his meeting with Clinton. But the deputy prime minister, who was also set to meet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and members of Congress, was also strategizing with US officials on increasing pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

In any case, it is Netanyahu who counts on the Israeli side when it comes to issues like the peace process, analysts say, and they generally concur that the Israeli leader is in no hurry to return to the negotiating table.

The Palestinian issue is “nowhere near the top tier of priorities” for either Netanyahu or most Israelis, Mr. Malley says. The prevailing view, he adds – far from that of Mofaz – is that returning to talks “is not particularly necessary because the status quo is not that painful.”

Others acknowledge that the prevailing view in Israel is one of low prospects for any meaningful movement in the peace process – but they say that can be the right time to make progress.

“People have fairly low expectations, no doubt, especially as to whether the Palestinians are prepared to come to the table,” says Peter A. Joseph, president of the New York-based Israel Policy Forum, who is currently visiting Israel. “But whether that can be the best time to move things forward, there’s certainly a strategy along those lines.”

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