Towards the end of ‘The Wayward Spy’, an optimistic young MI6 operative tells Michael Vaux, the novel’s protagonist, that he believes that at long last the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is at hand. This is 1992– when my story begins to unfold. ‘I believe that slowly but surely we are breaking the impasse. Last year’s Madrid conference (called in the wake of the First Iraq War) helped the West make progress toward a just settlement–for the Arabs and the Israelis,’ says Britain’s SIS man in Cairo.

He tells Vaux: ‘They’re talking about a road map now, a step-by-step process of building confidence and eventually working out a compromise.’

Twenty years on. The U.S.-sponsored peace talks are off, effectively sabotaged by Israel’s refusal to freeze settlements expansion. Frustration and impatience have sparked a new mini-conflict between Hamas and Israel with the usual disproportionate response from Israel (one Israeli dead against 30-plus Palestinians in Gaza). The pan-Arab ‘awakening’ has focused the world’s attention on the fate of key players in the oil-rich region. And for Israel’s leaders that’s surely yet another bonus. The pressure to come to a deal envisioned by the two-state solution evaporates by the day.