With a cast of characters that has presided over numerous failed Middle East peace efforts, the Obama administration launched a fresh bid Monday to pull Israel and the Palestinians into substantive negotiations.
Despite words of encouragement, deep skepticism about the prospects for success surrounded the initial discussions, which were opening with a dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. He named a former U.S. ambassador to Israel to shepherd what all sides believe will be a protracted and difficult process.
Former envoy Martin Indyk, who played key roles in the Clinton administration’s multiple, unsuccessful pushes to broker peace deals between Israel and Syria and Israel and the Palestinians, will assume the day-to-day responsibility for keeping the talks alive for the next nine months.
The Israeli side will be led by chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who was active in the Bush’s administration’s ill-fated Annapolis peace talks with the Palestinians, and Yitzhak Molcho, a veteran adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was part of the Israeli team involved in Obama’s two previous attempts to broker negotiations.
The Palestinian team will be led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and President Mahmoud Abbas’ adviser, Mohammed Shtayyeh, both of whom have been major players in failed negotiations with the Israelis since 1991.