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Why some are optimistic about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

The widespread turmoil in the Middle East and the desire of leaders on both sides to leave their mark on history could tip the scales in favor of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

By Staff writer / July 29, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry stands with former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk at the State Department in Washington, Monday, July 29, as he announces that he Indyk will shepherd the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Washington

Secretary of State John Kerry has set the stage for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks he will relaunch with a dinner at his Washington home Monday by noting that success will require “reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional, and symbolic issues.”

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The prospects for compromise by Israeli and Palestinian leaders on issues ranging from borders and security (those are the easier ones) to Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees have many officials and regional experts giving the renewed talks very long odds of success.

But at the same time, widespread turmoil in the Middle East and the desire of both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to leave their mark on history could confound the skeptics and tip the scales in favor of reaching a peace agreement, others say.

“There are a couple of reasons for optimism here,” says Peter Krause, a Middle East specialist at Boston College who points to leaders’ concerns for their legacy and a realization that failure could empower new, more radical leaders, as reasons not to write off Secretary Kerry’s effort.

Speaking at the State Department Monday, Kerry acknowledged that “going forward” it will be a “difficult process,” adding, “If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago.” The resumed talks are the result of six trips Kerry made to the region and hours spent with both Messrs. Netanyahu and Abbas since taking the secretary of State job in February.

Officials and experts on all sides say the renewed talks simply would not be happening if it weren’t for Kerry’s determination to restart a peace process he calls the “granddaddy” of American diplomatic efforts.  

After greeting the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators – Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat – at his home for an iftar dinner Monday, Kerry will host the two sides at the State Department Tuesday, where they are expected to establish the framework for what Kerry anticipates could be nine months of negotiations.

The goal of the negotiations – and the many compromises Kerry says will be required along the way – is a final-status settlement of the issues behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a Palestinian state living in peace with a secure Israel.  

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