Having observed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over a long period, it is hard to believe that this time the efforts of the US Secretary of State John Kerry could move the two sides towards a final status settlement within the nine-month timeline that he has set.
The obstacles are great, although not insurmountable. If the parties involved do not initially work out a firm common ground upon which to build their negotiations, a resolution of this conflict, which has defied many attempts at a resolution in the past, may still prove to be a long way off.
Neither side in the conflict has so far backed off from its well-entrenched position against one another. The Israelis have given no indication that they are willing to negotiate in good faith on the basis of the principle of ''land for peace''. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always opposed this principle, which had formed the foundation of the Oslo peace process. The latter started with much fanfare in 1993 but died as Israel refused to give up its policy of building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and to acknowledge for the Palestinians what it has cherished for itself: independence, freedom, security and prosperity.
Although Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip - a 360 square-kilometre piece of land, with a population of more than 1.7 million - in 2005 simply because the Strip had become squalid and very costly to govern, it has continued to box in its population from the air, sea and land. Despite repeated international condemnation of its blockade of Gaza since the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas assumed governance of the Strip in 2007, Israel has not done much to assuage global concerns. It has been more than happy to see a continuation of the split within the Palestinian nationalist movement between Hamas and Fateh, which forms the core of the Palestinian Authority and which Israel has recognised as its ''partner in peace'', allowing it to govern the West Bank under Israeli control.
There is no evidence to suggest that Israel is prepared to change its position substantially on all this or, for that matter, on the status of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians want to have East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state but Israel has incorporated it into West Jerusalem as its permanent capital and therefore as non-negotiable. Similarly, Israel has not signalled a willingness to fold up the major Jewish settlements that occupy more than half of the West Bank and that dissect the territory in many ways.
Nor has it ever conceded that it will accommodate the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli Wars. Currently, Netanyahu's coalition government is totally divided over what to negotiate away to the Palestinians. There are those who are entirely opposed to giving up any piece of the Palestinian territory and view the popular turmoil in the surrounding Arab states, in Syria and Egypt in particular, to their advantage.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that Israel needs to make painful concessions, but he has aired this many times before. As for the position of the Palestinians, it too remains largely unchanged. While Hamas has rejected the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that the latter does not represent all of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority insists on the creation of an independent Palestinian state along the lines of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
It is also adamant about the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with perhaps some border adjustments with Israel, and about a viable settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue.
The fact that there is no meeting of the minds between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas means that the divided Palestinian leadership continues to be a factor on which Israel can draw to terminate negotiations by claiming that it has no united Palestinian partner with which it could conclude a final settlement.
Meanwhile, as Hamas remains excluded from the talks because in the eyes of Israel and its
supporters it is a terrorist organisation, it is always in a position to wreck anything that may emerge from the peace talks if it does not meet its preferences.
To ensure a successful continuation of the peace talks towards a final settlement, the Obama administration first of all needs to achieve two things: one is to lean on Netanyahu to embrace a policy of ''land for peace'' as the basis for negotiation. Another is to enter a dialogue with Hamas as a necessary element in the peace process.
Of course, these are not easily achievable objectives. In spite of the Netanyahu government's vulnerability due to serious domestic social and economic problems and European Union pressures, Israel still commands bipartisan support in the US Congress, enabling Netanyahu to bypass the American president and yet retain US backing when necessary.
At the same time, Washington seems to be in no mood to engage Hamas for fear of alienating Israel and boosting the position of political Islamists in the region, where they are widely opposed by the establishments, as the case of the military's recent removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt has demonstrated. Yet, the compelling point is that if the US and its allies are willing to talk to the Taliban for a political settlement in Afghanistan, why can't they do the same with Hamas?
The resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks is welcome, but we should not hold our breath. Past history does not inspire much confidence that could allow us to revel in the development yet.
Amin Saikal is professor of political science and director of the centre for Arab and Islamic studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University.