Foreign Affairs

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in early stages

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in early stages

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks promised by Secretary of State John Kerry last week are underway, and President Obama joined in today to add gravitas to his administration’s third try at making-nice.

Senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met with the president at the White House today, after first meeting together without American mediators. Last night marked the first day of negotiations, as Kerry and aides hosted a dinner at the State Department. Before dinner, Kerry reportedly spoke with each side separately for 45 minutes each.

The negotiators are scheduled to come together again later today for a three-way meeting, after which Kerry is expected to issue a statement reporting on progress. The AP reports that “the State Department would not disclose details of the discussions, saying only that they were ‘constructive and productive.’”

According to the AP, “U.S. officials sought to dampen expectations, saying Kerry might say only that the two sides had agreed to meet again.”

Both sides have agreed to keep up with the peace talks until next May, and Kerry has urged them to make “reasonable compromises.”

The peace talks bring with them a fair share of skeptics, and rightfully so, as efforts to negotiate peace failed in 2008 and again in 2010.

The agreement for the peace talks was likely fueled by Israel’s recent release of about 100 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. They had been imprisoned for attacks against Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian talks of 1993. NBC reports that the odds that something will happen early on are good, (as they decide the basics of future meetings), but that “there were signs Monday that the two sides don’t even agree on which topics should be addressed when.”

Questions to be decided later on in talks taking place in the Middle East will include: the theoretical borders of a Palestinian state, how Jerusalem could be divided, the fat of Palestinian descendants who want to return to what is now Israel.

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