Middle East

Little Progress on Peace Talks' First Day

Aside from setting a schedule for the reopened peace talks, Israeli and Palestinian leaders ended the first day without much progress. The stakes are high when they meet again Sept. 16: Israel’s partial moratorium on new settlements in the West Bank is due to expire on Sept. 26. Jewish officials are largely opposed to extending it, but if construction resumes, the talks threaten to break down entirely. Any discussion of the settlements is usually bitterly fraught, with the sides unable to even agree on which ones are at issue. "Talking about the settlement blocs without a detailed map is like playing chess with yourself," one Israeli official said. "The Palestinians [will] say, 'You won't get them for free. Show us a map.'" From now on, the talks will also remain shrouded in secrecy as the United States has urged both sides not to publicly declare their positions, so that negotiators don’t dig themselves in because of popular opinion.