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January 3, 2013 2:44 pm

Israelis Pessimistic About Peace Amid U.S. Goal to Restart Mideast Talks in 2013

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State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Photo: State Department.

Forty-five percent of Israelis do not believe that a two-state solution will bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians, compared with 40 percent who approve of a two-state solution, according to a new Israel Radio poll cited by Israel Hayom on Jan. 3.

Additionally, a recent Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs survey showed that 76 percent of all Israelis and 83 percent of Jewish Israelis do not believe that a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a division of Jerusalem would solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Amid this pessimistic sentiment in the Jewish state—which follows the Palestinians’ unilateral move of seeking and obtaining an upgrade to nonmember observer state status at the United Nations in November—the U.S. has renewed its call on Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace negotiations, citing the New Year as an opportunity to return to the negotiating table.

“As we turn the calendar to 2013… now is the time for leaders on both sides to display real leadership, to focus on the work that’s necessary to return to direct negotiations,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

She urged “both sides to clearly demonstrate that they are serious about achieving two states living side by side in peace and security,” calling on Israelis and Palestinians to halt any “counterproductive unilateral actions.”

By “unilateral actions,” Nuland was likely referring to the Palestinians’ UN statehood move, but on the Israeli side the recent approval of new housing units in Givat Hamatos, Ramat Shlomo, and the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim. The U.S. administration under President Barack Obama has been a frequent critic of Israeli construction, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s imposition of a 10-month freeze on building beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders in 2009.

Peace negotiations broke down in 2010, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to resume talks unless Israel ended West Bank construction (Netanyahu did not extend the freeze), and with Netanyahu calling on Abbas to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.

Nuland stressed that since Obama was now in his second term, and with elections coming up in Israel on Jan. 22, both the Israelis and the Palestinians were approaching a particularly important time.

“We have an environment that was quite fraught and quite difficult at the end of 2012, so the question is whether we can make a fresh start in 2013, and that’s going to require restraint on all sides,” she said.

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