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Middle East peace talks: four reasons not to be cynical

Yes, there are huge obstacles. But the advantages of talking over fighting can't be discounted. Peace talks slow the killing, promote civil society, and may shift the dynamics in the region for a more stable future.

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It is impossible to know whether this latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which began Sept. 2 in Washington, will lead to peace.

There are huge obstacles.

Among them are domestic politics in Israel, which features a government led by conservative nationalist and religious parties. Compromise with the Palestinians is anathema to many within this fragile coalition, and its supporters.

The Palestinians are so deeply divided that they govern different geographic areas and are as opposed to one another as they are to Israel.

Many Americans, meanwhile, point to past failures and warn against future concessions. Now that Israel is relatively safe, they say, why force it to take steps that could turn the relatively quiet West Bank into another Gaza or Lebanon?

Talking rather than fighting

This is the usual way of counting risks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it overlooks the advantages of talking rather than fighting. They are significant, so significant that they outweighed the reservations of the two sides and persuaded them to accept President Obama's invitation to talk.

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