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Middle East peace talks: Finding believers amid the skeptics

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Moreover, failure to reach a comprehensive peace accord does not rule out reaching interim agreements on some of the conflict’s more resolvable points of contention, some experts say.

A final peace accord “is not really attainable at this point in time,” but that means “we need to settle for more modest objectives,” says Gilead Sher, a former Israeli official with long involvement in the peace process who is now director of the Center for Applied Negotiations at the Tel Aviv Institute for National Security Studies.

A “gradual and certain progress” toward a “separation of two nation states” is possible with agreements on issues such as borders, security, economic development measures, and even settlements, Mr. Sher believes. A key to achieving important initial steps would be to leave the most difficult “identity” issues – the status of Jerusalem, and refugees – to be resolved later, he says.

“Borders and security are attainable within the coming year,” Sher says.

Others who are less optimistic about the talks leading anywhere say there are reasons the two leaders involved – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – have agreed to them.

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