Israel and Palestinians step closer to proximity peace talks
US Mideast envoy George Mitchell met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Wednesday and is to meet Friday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinians are skeptical of the indirect or 'proximity' peace talks, as they skirt key issues like borders and Jerusalem.
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Palestinian analysts say that although negotiations have finally gotten under way, outstanding, fundamental differences could bring the parties to an impasse fairly soon.Skip to next paragraph
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"The differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis will float to the surface immediately. They will differ over the security arrangements, and the Israeli side will refuse to delve into the main final status issues which the Palestinians are keen to get into," says Abdel-Majid Sweilem, a Palestinian political analyst in Ramallah.
"Hence, these negotiations might be paralyzed before they even start, and the credibility of the PA – which accepted to go into these negotiations again – will surely suffer," he adds. "Our hope is that the US will pressure Israel to move ahead into final status negotiations. I think it should be in the interest of the US to progress in this track in order to demonstrate to the whole world the seriousness of its approach to solving the Arab Israeli conflict."
Poll of Palestinian public
According to a new poll released by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 60.8 percent of Palestinians are to varying degrees in favor of resuming indirect negotiations with Israel.
The mood on the street, however, makes it difficult to find Palestinians who are enthusiastic about the prospects of the talks being productive.
"All these negotiations are a way of surrendering the cause by Abbas and his group to the Americans and the Israelis," says Ilham Mahmoud, a lawyer in Ramallah. " It does not make sense to get involved in this collaborator's job. I would rather see Abbas concentrate on reconciliation talks with Hamas so that we can have a strong internal front."
Naeema Eesa, a teacher on her way home from school, said that even if she tried, she couldn't give an honest, optimistic message to her students.
"No one here believes in this fruitless exercise of indirect talks," she says. "Palestine will only return to us through a hard position on the part of the Palestinians."
- Nuha Musleh in Ramallah contributed to this report.