JERUSALEM — It's happening. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met in Washington DC to commence a new round of peace talks.
"All final status issues on the table will be resolved without exception," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said at a joint press conference Tuesday.
These include thorny issues like the administration of the holy city of Jerusalem — which both sides claim as their capital — Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and a resolution to the Palestinian "refugee problem."
Israeli and Palestinian envoys seemed on board, with both Erekat and head Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni saying neither said can afford to wait in such turbulent times.
But they were not always this optimistic, nor were they on the same page about the usefulness of peace talks — even in the last few days.
Here are just a few reasons why, even as talks ostensibly move forward, many are skeptical peace will break out:
It starts over "iftar", a traditional breaking of the fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Monday night in DC.
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Before the two sides can break bread, US President Barack Obama says "hard choices lie ahead."
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Everyone — diplomats, observers, politicians — are skeptical, while the rare optimists say maybe it's best to aim for a simple interim agreement?
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The US insists both sides agreed to a full nine-month period of negotiations.
One of the chief architects of the historic 1993 Oslo Accords, Yossi Beilin (right), says give it a year — but never opt for an interim agreement.
Newly appointed US peace envoy, Martin Indyk (right), was himself skeptical not that long ago. "I find it very hard to believe that they will reach an agreement," Indyk said in an interview with Israel's Army Radio, and that recently resurfaced.
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Chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni is quoted as saying Monday that the talks will be "very tough." Also on Tuesday, she's quoted as saying the negotiations "create hope for both nations."
The unofficial list of Palestinian prisoners to be released by Israel as part of the peace talks does include murderers, militants kidnappers and run-of-the-mill criminals.
The Palestinian Authority says those prisoners set to be released — some after decades, like the man in the photo below — "are not terrorists."
Before Israel's cabinet voted on the prisoner release Sunday, industry, trade and labor minister Naftali Bennett said: "terrorists should be killed, not released." He reportedly went on to say: "I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”
For his part, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced from Cairo — before heading to Washington — that "not a single Israeli" would remain in the future Palestinian state. Roughly half a million Israeli settlers currently live inside the West Bank, which would make-up the bulk of a Palestinian state.