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Mixed Outlook for Mideast Proximity Talks

Interviewees: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Steven A. Cook, CFR Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
May 26, 2010

The "proximity talks" being conducted between Israelis and Palestinians by U.S. negotiator George Mitchell are unlikely to lead to a permanent agreement, say Elliot Abrams, CFR senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, and Steven A. Cook, CFR Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies.

Abrams, who formerly served in the Bush administration as a Middle East specialist in the National Security Council, said he thought the proximity talks would lead to direct talks, "but I don't think that when they sit at the same table, they're going to achieve a final status agreement." Cook said, "If it's at all possible, I'm perhaps more skeptical than Elliott on this issue."

Both, however, held out the possibility that the talks could lead to creating the framework for a Palestinian state on the West Bank. Abrams said, "The negotiations should, in a sense, be seen as a façade, behind which the institutions of a Palestinian state can, one hopes, be created in reality on the ground in the West Bank." Cook agreed: "I think that it is entirely possible, and this is something that the Palestinians have actually been talking about for quite some time."

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