Is there any cause for optimism for a constructive agreement once the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are complete (your report, 31 July)?
The real crux of the matter is the question of the security of the 65-year-old state that stretches from the Golan heights to the edge of the Sinai desert.
Allan Massie (Perspective, same day) failed to mention the elephant in the room at the talks.
That is the states – most notably Iran – which at present are loathe to admit that Israel even has a right to exist, and even from time to time threaten its obliteration. It is just not feasible to foresee Israel making serious concessions on the rights of the Palestinians (their land, their civil liberties, their international status) unless there is an absolute guarantee over its future and security.
That is a matter that needs an international conference.
Given the current turmoil in many of the surrounding Arab states, that would appear to be a long way off.
On the basis of Winston Churchill’s maxim that “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”, it is right that both Israel and Palestinians should talk.
But how any Palestinian authority could persuade the plethora of hostile groups like Hamas to come to terms with Israel’s existence, let alone its borders, is difficult to see.
There may be a case for United Nations involvement over the question of Jerusalem, a city which is still a shrine for the main religious faiths.
Unless there is a genuine and positive will for international co-operation and Israeli/Palestinian conciliation, however, the welcome initiative form US Secretary of State John Kerry will prove another triumph of hope over expectation.