Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Mideast in an attempt to kickstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In what will be his 10th trip to the region as the Obama administration's top diplomat, Kerry plans to build upon progress made in peace negotiations between Tel Aviv and Beirut since July, according to a senior Palestinian official.
Just a few weeks ago, President Obama reiterated his commitment to an ambitious timetable: he envisioned a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014. "I think it is possible over the next several months to arrive at a framework," he said at a Brooking Institution event. "We are now at a place where we can achieve a two-state solution."
It was hard to fathom where Obama's optimism was coming from. Back in July, following six trips to the region in six months, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a framework for talks -- the first since the last round of diplomacy collapsed in 2010 -- and even introduced former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk as the administration's Middle East peace envoy.
And since then, there's been no real progress to speak of, and by all accounts, the talks have gone nowhere fast. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, told a U.S. audience in November that he does not believe a peace deal will materialize anytime soon.
But the administration remains determined. Whether U.S. officials are more determined than the stakeholders themselves remains to be seen.
The details are a little sketchy, but Kerry will reportedly return to the region this Saturday, picking up on where talks left off in November.
The Secretary of State continues to talk about how "confident" he and other White House officials are, leading to no shortage of "what does he know that everyone else doesn't?" questions.
Reuters' report added, "Kerry wants the sides to agree to a framework for an interim accord ahead of a deal in April, which would launch another year of talks aimed at a full-blown peace treaty."
WIth this timetable in mind, it's likely the peace process will either be close to a triumph or a failure within the next few months.