The decision by the government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to begin new peace talks on 2 September will give a fresh opportunity for a peaceful solution to the one of the world’s most bitter and protracted conflicts.
The talks between the two groups, scheduled for 2 September in Washington, will be the first direct negotiations in almost two years.
The talks will be attended by representatives of the PNA and Israeli government along with Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President and King Abdullah II of Jordan along with Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister and representative of the Middle East Quartet of the European Union, United Nations and US and Russian governments.
The US is hopeful that a two-state solution can be brokered within 12 months and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that reaching a peaceful agreement with the PNA will “be difficult, but possible”.
But 17 years after the start of the Oslo peace process, renewed optimism for the prospect of peace may be short-lived. Serious disagreements between the two sides remain on a number of core issues.
The continued construction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories, the status of Jerusalem and the borders of a future Palestinian state have been major stalling blocks in past negotiations and neither side appears ready yet to compromise their own interests on these fundamental points.
The continued exclusion of Hamas from the negotiating table is also seen by many as de-legitimising any future negotiations.
The upcoming peace talks offer an opportunity for progress in the conflict, which has been raging for more than 60 years. But unless the sides are willing to make compromises in key areas, the negotiations will suffer the same fate as all of the previous efforts in the last 17 years.