NPR Story
11:51 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Peace Talks To Resume Amid Skepticism

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 1:54 pm

This week, Israeli and Palestinian officials met for the first time in years to try and jump start the Middle East peace process.

The sessions in Washington followed four months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said yesterday that negotiators from both sides have agreed that all the difficult issues will be on the table when the talks resume in two weeks.

But in the Middle East, there’s skepticism that any real agreements will be reached this time.

The BBC’s Bethany Bell reports from Jerusalem.

Reporter

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Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet again in two weeks to continue the talks that got underway in Washington this week. The goal: To reach an agreement within a poetic nine months. But in the region there's skepticism. The BBC's Bethany Bell reports from Jerusalem.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

BETHANY BELL: An iftar meal to break the Muslim Ramadan fast kicked off this latest round of peace talks in Washington. Negotiators are tackling procedural matters first, and it's not yet clear when the difficult core issues will be discussed. But the U.S. secretary of State, John Kerry, says the talks are welcomed and a significant step forward.

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: It's no secret that this is a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago. It's no secret therefore that many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional and symbolic issues. I know the negotiations are going to be tough, but I also know that the consequences of not trying could be worse.

BELL: The issues include the question of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, future borders, Palestinian refugees, security and the status of this place, the city of Jerusalem.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Before entering the train, please make sure you haven't missed...

BELL: This tramline in Jerusalem runs along part of the Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. Now, the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be their future capital, but Israel says Jerusalem is its capital and shouldn't be divided.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

BELL: A session of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He says peace talks are in Israel's interests. But now his coalition partners including the rightwing Jewish Home party are letting him proceed, but some of their politicians, like Ayelet Shaked, think the two-state solution is an illusion.

AYELET SHAKED: So I'm not optimistic. I don't think that anything will happen from those talks, but I understand the need to talk with the Palestinians, but I think that the gaps are too big in order to get an agreement.

BELL: And there's also deep skepticism among the Palestinians.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Foreign language spoken)

BELL: Another iftar meal, this time in Bethlehem, at the home of the Abu Akar(ph) family. Sitting with her children and grandchildren, Uli Dal(ph) says she doesn't believe the talks will bring peace.

ULI DAL: (Through translator) If there are real politicians who make peace, I won't say no, but there's no peace. Obama isn't listening. Netanyahu isn't listening. They're making fun of the Palestinian people.

BELL: After so many failed attempts at peace in the past, there's little hope here of a breakthrough.

YOUNG: That report from the BBC's Bethany Bell in Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.