In a hopeful sign prior to today's opening of Middle East peace talks in Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview that his country might cede Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinians to make a deal work. The status of Jerusalem has been a sticking point in past rounds of negotiations, since both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their capital. Does Barak's statement indicate that Israel is willing to make unprecedented compromises to ink a deal — and, if so, will Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas respond in kind? (Watch an al Jazeera report about the ongoing negotiations)
Israel's flexibility on Jerusalem could be a breakthrough: Abbas has shown a willingness to be a "partner in peace," says Avi Issacharoff in Israel's Haaretz. He can show some "flexibility over borders," maybe even over the right of Palestinians to return to their former homes in Israel. "But not over Jerusalem." Giving Abbas a chunk of Jerusalem — including the Temple Mount, home of Islam's third holiest site — is "the price of ending the conflict."
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Concessions mean nothing to Hamas: Agreeing to cede part of Jerusalem won't bring peace, say the editors of the New York Post. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority run the West Bank, but they "have no sway over Hamas — the Iranian-backed terror group that runs Gaza." And don't expect Hamas, which just murdered four Israelis this week, to be shy about destabilizing any peace agreement.
Unfortunately, Abbas can't afford to compromise: Netanyahu, a hawk seeking peace, is in a position to make concessions, and deliver, say Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in The Washington Post. Sadly, Abbas isn't. Even if he answers an Israeli compromise with one of his own to reach a deal, he'll go home to "a fractured, fractious society," where he'll be accused of "bartering away Palestinian rights" with no mandate to do so.
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