Cheat sheet for new Mideast peace bid

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Israel and the Palestinians have set themselves a nine-month goal of trying to reach the peace deal which has eluded them for six decades.

Here's what we know -- and what we don't -- about the latest U.S.-led effort to bring peace to the Middle East, with the aim of creating a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side.


Israelis: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, legal advisor Yitzhak Molho

Palestinians: Chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, Fatah central committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh

United States: Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, dubbed "the facilitator," who could be backed at key moments by either U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry or even President Barack Obama.


The next round will take place in two weeks, at no precise date, either in Israel or the Palestinian territories. After that the tempo is expected to pick up.

Both sides have agreed to keep talking for at least nine months, no matter what "provocations" there are.

Talks could be held either in the region or in Washington.


All the so-called "final status" issues -- the right of return for some five million Palestinian refugees, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem, the existence of Jewish settlements -- are on the table for negotiation.

There has been no Israeli agreement to halt settlement building during the talks, which had been a key Palestinian demand.

The U.S. position that a future Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 borders with mutual land swaps has not changed. But it is uncertain that this is the basis for the new negotiations.

Israel has agreed to a key Palestinian demand to release some 104 Palestinian prisoners -- many held in Israeli jails for decades. The timetable for their release is up to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

All sides have agreed to keep the details of the discussions top secret to give the negotiations the best chance to work.

Next moves

The U.S. is working with the Middle East Quartet on a plan to attract some $4 billion in private investment to boost the Palestinian economy, which the State Department says it will roll out in the coming weeks.

Kerry says Israel will be "taking in the next days and weeks a number of steps in order to improve conditions in the West Bank and in Gaza." That could mean lifting some road blocks and bureaucratic hurdles to help the economy begin to flow.

General John Allen, a former NATO commander, is already on the ground, working to assess Israel's security needs.

Both Israel and the Palestinians have said any deal would be put to a referendum of their people.

What we don't know

Everything else, including the big question of what a future deal will look like. There is no indication of how the talks will roll out, only an awareness that the "clock is ticking".

The parties have not decided yet how the core issues will be tackled and negotiated and no one is revealing whether there have been any mutual understanding, agreements or commitments as the basis for the talks.

How they intend to resolve such heart-and-soul issues as the holy city of Jersualem, claimed by both as their capital, and the hopes of millions of Palestinians, who dream of returning to their homeland, remains as yet a mystery.