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Israeli-Palestinian Talks: The Perils of Pessimism

Some cautiously optimistic signals from the Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) takes the lectern to announce further peace talks at a news conference with Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (L) and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (2nd R) at the State Department in Washington July 30, 2013. Israel and the Palestinians will seek to reach a peace agreement within nine months and negotiators will meet again within two weeks after holding a "positive" first round of talks, Kerry said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags
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US President Barack Obama surprised the Israeli and Palestinian representatives who began negotiating on this week in Washington. He abandoned protocol and came to meet the parties, not just to support and encourage them, but to add something of a celebratory mood to the event. American expressions of optimism are crucial to the success of the talks, because among the officials in the world who are familiar with the complexity of the issues, only a few believe that these talks will end with a final status arrangement. It is quite safe to assume that the Israeli public is similarly convinced that there is no way that this round of negotiations will lead to any achievements whatsoever, given Israel’s right-wing government and Palestinian Chairman Abu Mazen’s weakness in the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The skepticism and low expectations that accompany these talks, which had been suspended for years, are reflected in the way that they are covered by the Israeli and Palestinian media alike. There are no festive announcements, no dramatic headlines, no breaking news reports and no special broadcasts with a spectrum of commentators. Actually, there is absolutely nothing to indicate to the viewers that something really important is happening right in front of them. News broadcasts on radio and television, as well as newspaper headlines, do not relate to the preparatory talks between Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as a major news story.

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