Staggering asymmetries between the Israelis and Palestinians could seriously imperil the talks. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is the head of a stable state with the ability to deliver on his commitments.
Celebrations of supposed institution-building notwithstanding, Palestinians have no robust central authority. Their territory is divided between the West Bank and Gaza. On their own, Palestinians would find it difficult to implement an agreement. Participation in direct talks was opposed by virtually every Palestinian political organization aside from Fatah, whose support was lethargic. Abbas' decision to come to Washington is viewed skeptically even by those who back him. If Abbas reaches a deal, many will ask in whose name he was bartering away Palestinian rights.
Abbas Is No Arafat -Moshe Arens
The negotiations between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas will not be anything like the negotiations with Yasser Arafat, who had the support of almost all Palestinians. Abbas does not have the authority to carry out any agreement he might arrive at with Netanyahu. Maybe the Americans think that enough financial support for Abbas will eventually provide him with both the legitimacy and authority he lacks. But the American largesse and American pressure that have brought him to the negotiating table have made him look like an American puppet.
Arafat could have made peace with Israel, but he did not want to. Abbas may or might not want to conclude a peace with Israel, but he cannot.
Mideast Peace Talks' Hidden Threat -Jonathan Schanzer
A Palestinian state, as endorsed by the Obama administration, very likely would include only the West Bank, where the leaders are not democratically elected. Indeed, in the 2006 elections, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad won only 2% of the vote, and Abbas' term as president expired nearly two years ago.
Who does the Obama administration suggest rule this proposed state? If it's Abbas and Fayyad, Obama will be advocating yet another illegitimate authoritarian Middle East regime.
Direct Mideast Peace Talks Begin -Helene Cooper & Mark Landler
Prime Minister Netanyahu, turning toward Palestinian President Abbas, called him his "partner in peace."
"The Jewish people are not strangers in our homeland, the land of our forefathers," he said. "But we recognize that another people share this land with us. And I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both peoples to live in peace, security and dignity."
(New York Times)
Click here for a short video of the ceremonial beginning of the talks