Middle East

Mid-East talks: Regional voices

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have held their first direct negotiations in nearly two years, in Washington.

The US Middle East envoy said the talks, between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, had been "constructive".

Here, BBC News website readers in the region talk about their hopes and concerns for the negotiations.

Abdal Rahman Sha'ath, Gaza City, Gaza

To have hope in any circumstances, you would need very reliable sources, because if you look at the facts I do not think anything can be achieved at this moment.

First you have two Palestinian territories being ripped apart, with both parties, Hamas and Fatah, being influenced by international players which use their sanctions against them.

If these two parties were left alone, I believe things would be solved, but the US is not willing to give the people a chance in power, even though elections were won democratically.

How is Abbas going to impose anything if he does not control all the Palestinian territories, and with none of his party members giving any approval of this step? Abbas has been taken to Washington by the ear.

And from the Israeli point of view, we have a government scared of the right wing. The fact that freezing the building of the West Bank settlements is a big taboo will take down Netanyahu.

So we as Palestinians are now a very weak side and the Israelis are a very stubborn side. The US is hoping to gain some good will and trying to erase the idea that Bush took sides in this conflict, but we all know that the US is always taking sides, even if it does not show it.

The latest attacks in the West Bank should not affect the talks, but they should be seen from another angle. What they show is that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is useless at preventing such actions, especially when the tension is at its highest.

Fatah and Hamas should focus on the negotiations, sit down and work together building a society that is productive and has one voice.

We are experiencing uncertainty and are fed up with hopes and promises. If there is an agreement, it will not be in our favour because we will face roadblocks and obstacles.

And if negotiations do not go well, the settlements will be mounting higher and higher, and things will get tighter and tighter.

Mordechay Ariely, Rishon LeZion, Israel

I have very limited hopes for the talks. [US President Barack] Obama was, and is, wrongly focusing on settlements. The conflict was already happening before the settlements.

The Palestinians have had plenty of opportunities to solve the conflict, but they always choose to miss every one.

There are different definitions of peace. For Palestinians it is a temporary agreement that will give them the property assets lost when attacking Israel. In return they will only hand over a vague paper with open issues for conflict continuation and, I believe, later destroy Israel.

For Israel it means a long-lasting peace for the Jewish state, living peacefully alongside the Arab world forever.

I feel sorry for the victims of the latest attacks. It is a reminder that peace is not only a paper. We should take care of our own security because nobody will do it for us. Unfortunately, I predict that many more innocent people will be killed.

Obama should concentrate on the conflict's key issues. The US can lead the free world to create the conditions for peace. However, it cannot impose it.

Everyone talks about the Palestinian refugees, but why do they not include the Jewish refugees?

There is also the subject of Jerusalem. It has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years and it was never a capital of an Arab state.

However, the reality is that Jerusalem is important for Jews, Christians and some Muslims, and therefore a constructive solution should be found. So every religion should be responsible for their own holy places.

Finally, my trust in the political statements to the media about the talks is very limited. They are used to serve short-term interests. What matters is what is being done behind closed doors - and that they will not tell us.

Wafa Abdel Rahman, Ramallah, West Bank

I do not have hope for this new round of peace talks. A big no. We have been talking for the past 19 years and the more talks, the worse the situation gets on the ground.

For these talks to be able to deliver, they should have a framework to end the occupation, clear timelines and deadlines, monitoring and verification measures for the protection of Palestinians under occupation, all through the negotiation process.

There should also be a new negotiation approach that addresses the root of the conflict in relation to all the pertaining issues.

And I have seen none of the above. I fear that we will be pushed again into the path of proving that we deserve our rights.

The situation is turning into a nightmare. The more the Israeli government talks about peace, the worse my family and friends' lives get.

Since April, the Israelis put in effect a new military order which prevents people like myself, who carry Gaza identification, from moving even inside the West Bank.

I am a prisoner in Ramallah. My niece got married in Gaza and none of my six sisters living outside Gaza were able to attend. My parents need medical attention and we need to get them out but cannot. There are electricity cuts and the water is scarce.

I do not doubt the intentions of the US president who wants to get the credit for putting an end to the conflict, but I think he did not realise the difficulties of doing so.

The absence of the UN, the Europeans and Russia is a huge mistake. No lessons have been learnt from the past. Bringing the two sides to bilateral talks without a clear agenda has proved to be a failure.

Netanyahu's opening speech never mentioned the Palestinian state but peace, security, security, security. Could one think he means peace and security without ending the occupation and without the Palestinian state? Does it mean maintaining the status quo? So he wants to get his legitimacy and security, but what he would give in return?

Of course the recent attacks in the West Bank affected the atmosphere in Washington and gave Netanyahu the upper hand to set the tone of the talks to be driven by security.

Netanyahu and Israel appeared to be the victim and Abbas and the Palestinians had to prove that they deserved their right to self-determination! Abbas was cornered on to the defensive. These attacks are meant to weaken Abbas and they did.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Jerusalem

I am not hopeful about the talks but I hope to see a definitive moment of truth when we can judge if Netanyahu really wants to, or can, end settlement-building and get to a two-state solution, as settlements and land-grab are the main problems, as to the lack of peace.

I am not interested in his words. I want to see him fulfil his promises. And I am fed up with his behind-the-scenes winks to the settlers (recently at the Likud conference), while poker-faced sincerity is the mask elsewhere.

I want to see freedom for both peoples. At present, neither is free.

Israel is an occupying power, living in a ghetto or fortress mentality, becoming increasingly hardened to the realities of being an occupier, and the Palestinians have no freedom, only harsh military occupation, ongoing ruthless dispossession and regular military attacks.

The mood here is even tenser than recently, due to the talks and Hamas terror attacks.

I had a feeling the attacks would happen and sincerely hope Hamas does not continue its self-defeating policy.

That simply reinforces harmful stereotypes, reinforcing the Israeli argument that the issue is security, when I think it is more about granting people freedom and ending a colonial occupation which Palestinians obviously resist, sometimes violently.

There is not hope in the air, or change, or excitement about a vision of a shared future. We are far too cynical and hardened by now, not least by the lies our leaders have fed us. "Been there, done that."

It's a false sense of quiet, the eye of the storm. I hope it will not erupt if there is failure in the talks, because the terror of both sides' attacks just crystallises the mutual unwillingness to live together.

The hardliners do not seem pressured about settlement evacuations. I will be more hopeful if I see the settlers genuinely stop building new settlement units, especially in the blocs, which are strategically the most dangerous as they create a fragmented Palestine and would require an Israeli military presence to protect.

Unless there is a US ultimatum with the deadline, Israel will continue to build. During the so-called freeze, there was much building - it never really froze.

If Netanyahu is serious, he will have to sell a total settlement freeze, including East Jerusalem, to his government and its settler supporters. If he does that, I will start to feel hopeful. If he does not, we are in for an international civil rights anti-apartheid struggle of One Man, One Vote because two-states will no longer be a choice.