A one-year time limit on peace talks is crucial to bringing Abbas to the table, analysts say. If talks fail to produce results, Palestinians have strongly hinted that they plan to unilaterally declare statehood and seek recognition from the U.S. and other nations.
"Agreeing to these talks shows the U.S. that Palestinians are ready to go all the way, and if nothing happens, it gives them an excuse to declare a state," said former Israeli peace negotiator Moshe Amirav, now a Hebrew University political science professor.
In a rare expression of optimism, Amirav predicted Friday that Netanyahu and Abbas would defy the naysayers because both men have an eye on their legacies.
At 75, Abbas is looking to retire, and delivering statehood to Palestinians would be his crowning achievement.
The 60-year-old Netanyahu is likewise "looking for something to put his mark on history," Amirav said. "I believe he is ready to make the big jump into an agreement with Palestinians."