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Arab Views of Peace Talks Tend Toward Pessimistic

The relaunching of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington has been greeted with a fair degree of skepticism in the Arab world.

The mixed reaction to the renewed talks could be seen in the comments of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. Before negotiations got under way, he said he was pessimistic about the chance of success, but is now stressing that the talks must be given a chance.

An informal survey of the mood on the streets of Beirut, where some areas are still being rebuilt after a 2006 conflict with Israel, turned up repeated expressions of pessimism. The only variation seemed to be the reason for the low expectations.

Some, like Hashim, an oil business consultant, were suspicious of Israeli motives, especially in light of past promises not to keep building on Palestinian lands.

Comments of the American Jewish Center and The Palestinian Center on the peace talks:

"I think with the current Israeli government, they're not going to give in on anything," he said. "They've already drawn the line on where they want the borders to be. The stettlements aren't going away. So what's going to change? Nothing's going to change. The Israelis are not going to budge on any of that. Ever since the Oslo peace treaty, the number of settlements have been increasing exponentially. So they don't care."

Others, like this student, Justine, spreads the blame, saying the region is not ready for peace. "Everyone is telling me the war will come soon, will come back," he said. "It could be with Israel, or it could be a civil war again. No one thinks that the country is at peace now. So peace talk in Washington, I don't think it will change the atmosphere here".

Others expressed hostility to even the idea of talks. This young man is between jobs as a telecommunications consultant.

"Any peace talks with the Israelis is a kind of surrender by traitors. That's how I see the peace talks. There shouldn't be any peace talks with the Israelis. There's no basis for peace. Somebody came and took your land, so what are you negotiating? The only solution is to get out of that land. That's it," he said.

Others, such as this young woman, Yasmin, says there could be a practical solution, if conditions were different. "It's like a business deal," she said. "So when there is common interests, maybe we can get to a certain agreement for, like, a truce. But if there is no common ground, then no."

The popular view of an unfair situation regarding the Palestinians is shared by many intellectuals and officials as well. But some, like Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, offers a glimmer of hope the talks could succeed.

"What we're talking about here is a settlement, not a just peace," he said. "And that's very sad. That's very unfortunate. But that also seems to be the reality. And many Palestinian leaders and other leaders around the world acknowledge this difficulty: how do you adjust to a situation which is not just? But at the end of the day, life needs to go on."

Salem adds the Palestinians need a homeland of sorts, even if its not the homeland they deserve, and a growing sense of the need to move forward.