Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to hold direct talks in Washington next week, a breakthrough that offers a glimmer of hope for Mideast peace. But formidable — some say insurmountable — obstacles remain. Israel says Palestinians must recognize Israel as "the national state of the Jewish people," which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says is "unacceptable." Palestinian leaders say they'll walk away if Israel lifts a freeze on new West Bank settlements, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the freeze will end as scheduled on Sept. 26. Is there any real chance the talks can succeed? (Watch a Fox News discussion about the peace talks' potential)
No, neither side is capable of striking a deal: "It’s hard to see this round of talks as anything but an elaborate charade," says Mikey Hemlok at Firedoglake. Hamas, which controls Gaza, isn't even participating, so it would be "difficult or impossible" for the Palestinians to implement any negotiated settlement. And the Israeli government can't "compromise on the settlements and remain in power," so neither side is in a "political position to actually forge an agreement."
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There's reason to be hopeful: The pessimism is understandable, says Josef Federman at the Associated Press, but these talks really could work. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas knows he'll look weaker next to Hamas if, now that the U.S. has coaxed him to the table, he lets the talks fail. And Netanyahu may be the one Israeli leader with the requisite "hawkish" cred and "political strength to pull off a peace deal."
The talks are doomed, and it's our fault: Sorry, this is no breakthrough, says Stephen M. Walt at Foreign Policy. The Palestinians insist on a "territorially contiguous state" enveloping all of the West Bank and, eventually, Gaza; Israel will only accept a "symbolic Palestinian 'state'" whose borders and air space it controls. Real progress is only possible if both sides give, and while Obama has made it clear he'll "twist Mahmoud Abbas' arm to the breaking point," he's been unwilling to "put meaningful pressure on Israel."
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