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Fresh US push for Mideast peace: 'More like jazz than chess'

In the past week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have visited Egypt. Egyptian officials are scheduled to visit Washington this week.

In this photo, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, right, meets with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, Monday. Abbas is digging in his heels for a full freeze on Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank before restarting negotiations.

Omar Rashidi/Palestinian Authority/AP

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The US is launching a fresh diplomatic push to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, this time with the help of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a go-between.

Top officials have held a flurry of high-level meetings in Egypt this week. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is digging in his heels for a full freeze on Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank before restarting negotiations. Israel is balking at agreeing to a deadline for a peace deal.

The continued deadlock in reviving talks that broke off a year ago is dogging the Obama administration as it nears the end of its first year. Yet, despite its desire to move the peace process forward, the US has insisted on hammering out clear parameters before allowing talks to begin again.

"The Americans created this trap of negotiating about negotiations," says Gershon Baskin, the co-director of the Israel Palestinian Center for Research and Information. "Just getting them to the table is perceived as a success."

Talks about the talk

In less than one week, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas have visited Egypt to discuss a compromise. After an Abbas-Mubarak meeting on Monday, Jordan's King Abdallah also flew in to discuss the talks. Egyptian officials are scheduled to visit Washington this week to update the US on the progress.

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