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Next year in Jerusalem?

As members of the Jewish community celebrate Passover - with the call for "next year in Jerusalem" - it is worth reflecting on what are said to be tentative steps to seeking some sort of peace in the Middle East.

"Out in the open, peacemaking stands no chance. Extremist positions, emotional attitudes, scare tactics by opponents would hold sway. The negotiating leaders would be constrained and would have to meet the toughest benchmarks. Each side would have to hunker down in its own bastion, attempts to reach common ground doomed to fail."

That is the view of Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Jerusalem-based reporters and documentary filmmakers writing in the IHT.

Reuters reports it this way:

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's call for a regional conference with Arab leaders drew a skeptical response on Monday from Saudi and Palestinian officials and diplomats who said it was a diversionary tactic.

Olmert proposed holding the conference as a possible alternative to U.S.-backed plans for talks through an Arab League working group that could try to negotiate details of a land-for-peace accord, diplomats involved in the matter said.

But Saudi officials say the kingdom would only consider talks if Israel clearly accepted the Arab peace initiative without any conditions. A statement issued after Monday's Saudi cabinet session stated the kingdom's position.

"Israel should realize that peace requires that it ends its constant violations and inhuman aggression toward the Palestinian people before anything else, and accept legal decisions passed by world bodies," it said."

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