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September 15, 2010

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks End on Positive Note

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has left Israel and the Palestinian territories after a second round of direct peace negotiations.

Secretary of State Clinton met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in Ramallah.  There was no statement and no details of what, if any, progress might have been made after two days of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

President Abbas, however, sounded positive in his remarks as he began his meeting with Mrs. Clinton.  He said everyone knows that there is no alternative other than negotiating for peace.

The Palestinian leader thanked the Obama administration for its commitment to mediating a peace deal.  Ms. Clinton said the United States will press ahead with its efforts to bring about an agreement.

Mideast historian Michael Fischbach on whether the peace talks will succeed:

"The United States and all of us led by President Obama are very committed and determined to work toward a peace agreement through direct negotiations that leads to an independent, sovereign, viable, Palestinian state that realizes the aspirations of the Palestinian people," said Clinton.

The talks began Tuesday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh.  It was the second round of direct negotiations after a 20-month hiatus.  

Secretary Clinton then traveled to Amman in neighboring Jordan for a meeting and lunch with King Abdullah, before heading back to Washington.  

There are questions of whether the negotiations could last beyond the end of the month.  The Palestinians have threatened to quit talks if Israel does not extend a self-imposed partial moratorium on construction inside Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.  The temporary freeze expires on September 26, and Israel has given no hint that it will extend it.

The Palestinians say the presence of more than 100 Israeli settlements impede the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.

Militants in the Gaza Strip, which is not under the control of President Abbas' Palestinian Authority, oppose the negotiations with the Jewish State.  They stepped up their attacks this week, firing a number of rockets into southern Israel.  Israel responded by launching air attacks inside the Gaza Strip.