Egypt is in turmoil again. Syria is embroiled in civil war. Iran continues building a nuclear device. Militants in Iraq have killed more than 4,000 people so far this year, more than 800 of them in July alone, according to the aptly named Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.org).

And what is Secretary of State John Kerry's focus? It is the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Again facing U.S. pressure, Israel has agreed to renewed peace talks. It rejected demands from the Palestinian side for withdrawal from "occupied" lands and the freezing of new "settlements" as preconditions, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did agree to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, most of them convicted of murdering Israeli civilians in terrorist acts, "in stages" and "in accordance with the circumstances of their progress" in the peace negotiations.

Let me assume the role of an Old Testament prophet and declare: There will be no progress, because the Palestinian side will accept nothing less than the complete annihilation of Israel and the removal of every Jew from what they regard as their land.

In announcing Israel's participation in negotiations, Mr. Netanyahu issued "an open letter to Israeli citizens." In it, he called those he would release from prison "depraved people." They are not likely to become less depraved after their release. Like most terrorists, there is a high probability they will rejoin the battle to obliterate Israel.

The prime minister also said: "In the next nine months, we will consider whether there is a Palestinian element opposite us that, like us, truly wants to end the conflict between us." Save your breath. There isn't, because the Palestinian definition of ending the conflict is simple: They win.

As for the promise that prisoners will be released should negotiations progress, let's see how that has worked in the past.

Middle East expert Daniel Pipes has listed some of them: In 1985, Israel exchanged 1,150 prisoners for three captured Israelis. In 2000, Israel exchanged 450 Arab prisoners for three Israeli bodies and one live hostage. In 2008, five Arab prisoners, including, writes Pipes, "the psychopath Samir al-Kuntar" and 199 Arab bodies were swapped for two Israeli bodies. And in 2011, 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were given up for one man, Gilad Schalit.

In none of these exchanges was the so-called "peace process" advanced. The Palestinians, seemingly, get what they want by not conceding anything. Nor are they forced to live up to their promises and agreements. Israel does all the conceding and gets nothing in return, except more terror and new threats of war.

In 2010, a poll sponsored by The Israeli Project, a Jewish-American organization, found most Palestinians refuse to accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish state and that while some accept the concept of two states, they regard it as a first step toward one state ruled by Palestinians.

In the face of so much evidence that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be ended by more Israeli concessions and prisoner releases, why is Secretary of State Kerry continuing to pursue what hasn't worked and can't work, given the ideological and religious motivations of the Palestinian side?

Maybe it's because this administration has no foreign policy, and pressuring Israel is as close as it can get to one. Meanwhile, the rest of the Middle East burns.

Cal Thomas' column is distributed by Tribune Content Agency. Readers may email him at tcaeditors@tribune.com.