From The new York Times, August 20, 2010, by ETHAN BRONNER*:
JERUSALEM — The American invitation on Friday to the Israelis and Palestinians to start direct peace talks in two weeks in Washington was immediately accepted by both governments. But just below the surface there was an almost audible shrug. There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met.
Instead, there is a resigned fatalism in the air....
“These direct negotiations are the option of the crippled and the helpless,” remarked Zakaria al-Qaq, vice president of Al Quds University and a Palestinian moderate, when asked his view of the development. “It is an act of self-deception that will lead nowhere.”
And Nahum Barnea, Israel’s pre-eminent political columnist, said in a phone interview: “Most Israelis have decided that nothing is going to come out of it, that it will have no bearing on their lives. So why should they care?”
That such a dismissive tone comes ...from mainstream thinkers is telling of the mood.
Some Israelis who have spent their professional lives on peace talks with the Palestinians were upset by the fear that failed talks could prove worse than no talks. Yossi Beilin, for example, who left politics in 2008 after years as a leftist member of Parliament and government minister, said Friday that the Obama administration was wrong to set a one-year goal without consequences.
“I think this is a huge mistake by the U.S. administration,” he said by telephone. “There is not a chance in the world that in a year — or two or three — peace can be achieved. The gap between the sides is too big...
...on the Palestinian side, not even the leadership is enthusiastic. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has spent the past year and a half resisting the entreaties of Mr. Netanyahu to sit down together without preconditions. ...He has agreed only from a position of weakness, he and others say.
...The Israeli perspective focuses on Palestinian failures that have led to the current deadlock. As most Israelis see it, twice in the past decade their governments made generous offers to the Palestinian leadership that were rejected or ignored, evidence that peaceful coexistence was not the other side’s goal.
The first offer was in 2000 from then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Yasir Arafat at Camp David. Within two months, a Palestinian uprising broke out, leading to blood on the streets. The second was less than two years ago, when then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered even more to Mr. Abbas. Nothing came of that either.
What happened in Gaza over the past five years has also created intense Israeli disillusionment. Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers and the result was a victory for Hamas, which rejects Israel’s existence, and thousands of rockets shot at Israeli communities from Gaza. The gap of mutual antagonism between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority grows monthly.
As a result, although most polls still show Israelis favoring a two-state solution, there is skepticism, even widespread cynicism, about Palestinian intentions and any prospect for a successful, peace-oriented state of Palestine...
*Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Khaled Abu-Akr from Ramallah, West Bank.