News / Middle East

Israelis, Palestinians Pessimistic About Peace Talks

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (L-R) and Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speak at a news conference at the end of talks at the State Department in Washington, July 30, 2013. I
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (L-R) and Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speak at a news conference at the end of talks at the State Department in Washington, July 30, 2013. I
Robert Berger
As Israeli and Palestinian chief negotiators held a second day of peace talks in Washington, pessimism prevailed back home.
 
Israelis and Palestinians are deeply skeptical about the talks and are watching events unfold with a negative sense of déjà vu.
 
The on-again, off-again talks have spanned 20 years, with failures, disappointments and cycles of violence. A final peace agreement on a Palestinian state remains elusive and there is rampant distrust. 
 
On the streets of Jewish West Jerusalem, Rachel Beckerman was upset that Israel plans to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture, including those involved in deadly terrorist attacks. 
 
“The idea of doing concessions or gestures for peace, I think is a mistake because those gestures are interpreted as weakness and it basically makes our negotiating more difficult,” she said.
 
Another Israeli, Pesach Schindler, recalled Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Two years later, the Palestinian militant group Hamas took over and since then, thousands of rockets have been fired at Israel. He said the Israeli government led people astray with promises of peace. 
 
“Land for peace hasn’t worked. We gave back the Gaza Strip and that blew up in their face,” noted Schindler. 
 
In the Arab bazaar, in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that borders West Jerusalem, Palestinians too were pessimistic.
 
The market was decked out with flashing lights and festive music as Palestinians celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
 
The mood was more somber when it comes to the peace process. Shopkeeper Adel Jafari said Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is incapable of making concessions for peace.
 
“The Israelis they are ruled by very extreme right wing. For them to give anything, it’s really, really hard," he said.
 
Another Palestinian merchant, Saed Yagmur, said there is plenty of blame to go around. 
 
“I don’t hope anything because I think it’s both of us: We and the Israelis are not ready for peace,”  Yagmur said.
 
Despite the atmosphere of doubt, many people on both sides concede that it is better to talk than to fight. 
 

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