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Palestine papers: America's approach to peace talks 'a failed policy'?

The Palestine papers, leaked documents purporting to reveal details of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, may create obstacles to ongoing talks – or sweep away failed strategies and allow new progress.

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In the weeks since Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed in a Washington speech that the US would revert to speaking bilaterally to the parties to try to reduce the differences between them, many outside experts have suggested the US needs to act more forcefully to get the peace process moving again.

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Some regional experts have suggested that President Obama should lay out the “framework” for a two-state solution as the US sees it. David Makovsky, a peace-process expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has shared with administration officials and others from the region a map he has created, showing potential land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians. His map draws two-state borders that would not leave most of Israel’s largest settlements marooned in a future Palestine, while also avoiding a “Swiss cheese” Palestinian state.

Others say any solution imposed from the outside will never work.

What the Al Jazeera documents confirm, some critics of the administration’s approach say, are two-party “negotiations” so asymmetrical that they will never deliver results.

Despite the negatives of the documents’ release, regional experts with opposing views on the peace process are united in seeing a silver lining to the revelations.

Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and an official with the Bush administration over the period of most of the divulged documents, wrote Monday that the impact will be positive if Palestinians will accept the proposals their leaders made on East Jerusalem and refugees as the kinds of compromises the Palestinians are going to have to make.

"The release of these ‘Palestine Papers’ may be healthy," Mr. Abrams says. "Anything that helps Palestinian public opinion move toward greater realism about the compromises needed for peace is useful."

New America’s Mr. Levy says he is heartened that the revelations could open the way to a different US approach that could yet deliver progress. “I think we could have a refreshing, potential sweeping away of the dead wood of this process,” he says.

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