The parties have agreed to stick to the talks for at least nine months and to negotiate in secret. At least two previous attempts to get to a deal were ultimately defeated by lack of time. At Camp David in 2000, President Clinton summoned the leaders of both sides for two weeks of intensive talks that ultimately failed. The negotiators could not remain holed up at the presidential retreat any longer and the fact that Mr. Clinton was in the waning days of his presidency also did not help.
In 2007 and 2008, the parties made considerable progress toward an agreement but time ran out when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was forced to resign after becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal.
This time, we are still in the first year of President Obama’s second term and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently won a new mandate. The nine-month window the parties have agreed to eliminates the danger that one or the other can just walk away the moment things start getting tough. It also minimizes the temptation to negotiate through the media or grandstand to their own constituencies. This time, they have the time and space to do real business.