The opening of talks between Palestinians and Israelis last Monday marks a small but important step toward resuming the hard work of a long-held U.S. policy goal: two states for two peoples, Palestine and Israel. Since becoming secretary of state, John Kerry has held multiple meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the effort to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table. While much work still lies ahead, Secretary Kerry’s efforts underscore the importance of the two-state goal for U.S. interests in the region, as well as the urgency of the moment—just getting the two sides to agree to talk to one another presents an opportunity that must not be squandered.
The challenges to achieving an agreement are well known. The Palestinians are divided, both geographically and politically, between the Fatah-dominated West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. While the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, remains the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority has not held elections since 2006. The Israeli occupation and the continued growth of the Israeli settlements that it facilitates, as well as the ongoing blockade of Gaza, considerably inhibit Palestinian economic growth.
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