Familiar cast as US launches new Mideast peace bid

Israeli, Palestinian negotiating teams sit down to talk for first time in three years over festive Ramadan meal at State Department

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, sits across from Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, third right, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, second right, Yitzhak Molcho, an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fourth right, and Mohammed Shtayyeh, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, at an Iftar dinner, which celebrates Ramadan, at the State Department in Washington, marking the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Monday, July 29, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, sits across from Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, third right, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, second right, Yitzhak Molcho, an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fourth right, and Mohammed Shtayyeh, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, at an Iftar dinner, which celebrates Ramadan, at the State Department in Washington, marking the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Monday, July 29, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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WASHINGTON — With a cast of characters that has presided over numerous failed Middle East peace efforts, the Obama administration launched a fresh bid for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal with the resumption of substantive negotiations.

Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to a nine-month timeline for final-status negotiations, an official there revealed early Monday afternoon, hours before the peace talks were set to start.

Despite words of encouragement, deep skepticism about the prospects for success surrounded the initial discussions, which were opening with a dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. He named a former US ambassador to Israel to shepherd what all sides believe will be a protracted and difficult process.

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