SOME heavy hints are being dropped in Washington that “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority might resume soon despite the lack of any sign of enthusiasm for them on the part of the principals.

There is no reason to think that such talks would result in any progress to an agreement between the two sides but it is just possible that President Obama wants to end the existing negotiating vacuum with a last attempt at a resumption so that he can then declare a dead end to this discredited approach. If that were to happen he would be able to make a fresh start -- but what would that be? It is a measure of the despair now felt by the Obama administration that the new initiative would apparently be based on what are known as the Clinton Parameters -- the settlement proposed by President Clinton in December 2000 shortly before his presidency ended. There are elements in these proposals concerning Jerusalem and West Bank settlements that would be immediately rejected today but the hope may be to have these Parameters adopted formally by the Quartet (EU, UN, Russia and US) which could then take over responsibility for negotiations with Israel. The idea seems far-fetched, but if it brought an international dimension that has hitherto been lacking to the resolution of this stand-off it might represent a small step forward.