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Feature: Ordinary Israelis see newly-launched peace momentum with mixed feelings

By Zhu Jianhui, Xinhua

Jerusalem : “I hope that there will be peace in near future, because I want my three children to have a happy and secured life,” a Jerusalem taxi driver, who only gave his name as Gabriel, told Xinhua.

  Gabriel’s remarks came just after an U.S.-host Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland agreed on final status negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday joined U.S. President George W. Bush to formally inaugurate the first formal, direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in seven years.

While the peace process is something of optimism and determination, ordinary people on street of Jerusalem hold mixed feelings and different expectations about possible outcome of the long stalled negotiations.

A Jerusalem resident named Ruth expressed her hope that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would be productive to bring about positive changes to the decades-long conflict.

She said that if peace can be achieved she will accept division of Jerusalem, adding “let’s give back East Jerusalem and it really won’t change anything for us.”

Israeli occupation harms not only the Jewish state’s interests but also the basic rights of the Palestinians, she added.

“I’m not optimistic,” said Judith Bussu, a travel agent in her40s, adding that Palestinian militant groups will not stop attacking Israel as Abbas is incapable of control.

“The Palestinians are not in one group and Abbas cannot control”, and without a serious and capable partner, any peace negotiations would end up a failure, she stressed.

Her points of view were shared by other passers-by. An elderly man living in Rehavia neighborhood told Xinhua that “ordinary Palestinians are not problem but they are in the control of Hamas.”

On Tuesday, Olmert and Abbas pledged at the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference to try to forge a peace treaty by the end of2008 that would create a Palestinian state.

But the radical Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip by force from President Abbas’s Fatah forces in June, has rejected the U.S.-sponsored Olmert-Abbas peace drive and vowed to undermine it.

Salah al-Bardaweel, a spokesman for Hamas lawmakers, on Tuesday slammed Abbas for going to Annapolis amid solid opposition by Hamas, the biggest Palestinian faction.

“Abbas is not authorized to make decision on behalf of the Palestinian people,” he told reporters in Gaza.

Elana, a teacher who immigrated to Israel from the United States, held that the peace initiative is good but the U.S. administration lacks adequate understanding of the Arabs.

“We heard a lot of nice words but these words only carry meanings when put into actions,” Elana said. “I know many wonderful Palestinians and they deserve their own state, but there are many serious problems that should be addressed.”

There are some strong opponents of the Annapolis conference and an Israeli initiative to split Jerusalem to reach a fundamental agreement with the Palestinians.

Making concessions will only make the other side ask for more without an assured security for Israeli citizens, they said.

Israeli attack helicopters gunships struck on Tuesday night a military base belongs to Hamas movement’s armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.

The airstrike on the Hamas base came shortly after militants from the group fired several homemade mortar shells from the Gaza Strip at Israel.