Israelis Find Peace Talk Optimism Difficult

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Many are calling this month's start of Middle East peace talks a major breakthrough.

But in Israel, it's hard to find much optimism. Many Israelis don't expect their country's relationship with the Palestinians to change.

"Other Israelis, from what I see, from what I hear [are] pretty pessimistic," visiting American rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern said.

The feeling is understandable, considering the state of the region.

The terror group Hamas rules Gaza while weakened Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas oversees a West Bank population where many Palestinians support Hamas rather than his Fatah party.

CBN News spoke with Washington Times contributor Kerry Picket about the Middle East peace talks, how the U.S. is involved and the busy week of foreign policy for President Barack Obama.  Click play for her comments, following Chris Mitchell's report.

Palestinian-controlled television also broadcasts reports that all of Israel is "occupied territory," not just the West Bank.

One program airing three times a week during the Muslim feast of Ramadan shows children hoping one day all of Israel - including the city of Haifa - will be Palestinian.

Another major cloud over the talks is whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will extend the 10 month construction freeze on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank.

The freeze expires Sept. 26, but if building resumes Abbas has threatened to quit the peace talks and blame Israel for the failure.

"I cannot say that I am extremely optimistic because the Palestinians seem to be too weak to deliver or to make historical decisions on their part," Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz said.

But if the groundwork for a genuine peace agreement is weak, why hold the talks?

Some observers believe the White House is looking for a Middle East success story. To get that success, one Israeli newspaper says the White House plans to pressure both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sign a framework agreement in one year.

"It's very dangerous and could be suicidal for the local participants in the peace process," Middle East expert Yoram Ettinger explained.

Ettinger believes pressure on Israel to give up the strategic land of Judea and Samaria put the Jewish state in danger.

"Israel's security requirements are extremely high as a result of the extremely explosive Middle East," he said. "And under such circumstances, Israel cannot afford to give away the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria because the assumption that Israel should give it away has to do with a Middle East that is non-existent."

And with a long list of previously failed peace talks - Madrid, Oslo, Camp David and Annapolis - it's hard for Israelis to imagine how the negotiations will produce genuine peace.

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