With reports swirling about a possible Israel-Palestinian peace talks meeting being brokered by Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Envoy for the Middle East. Mikhail Bogdanov visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. The hypothetical meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which could be hosted face-to-face by Putin in the Russian capital, was discussed, according to a press release from Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu is reviewing the offer and potential timing for such a meeting. Noted the press release, “The Prime Minister presented Israel’s position that he is always ready to meet with President Abbas directly and without preconditions.”
While the Palestinians have refused to negotiate with the Israelis for years, a potential resumption of talks is a possibility due to the involvement of Russia. A report from i24 News in Israel, citing an Israel Radio report on a Palestinian official’s interview, highlighted the Palestinians’ more positive view of Russia’s willingness to pressure Israel. “Russia can fulfill a positive, credible and more balanced role, since the US is not at all interested in pressuring Israel,” claimed Palestinian Liberation Organization senior official Ahmad Majdalani in the interview with the el-Raad television station.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has been more openly critical and is considered less supportive of Israel than either of the two previous US Presidents, but that stance appears to not go far enough for the Palestinians’ liking.
The timing of a potential Israel-Palestinian meeting, which the i24 report said could come in October according to sources, would further exclude the Americans. The next US presidential election is in early November, meaning that the next US president would not even be elected when the talks could begin.
Meanwhile, Obama’s term expires in January, making him a “lame duck” with limited political power to be at the center of something as complex as Israel-Palestinian peace talks. So by starting the meetings ahead of the election of the next US leader that could realistically hold an important role in such talks, the Russian meetings would effectively reduce the American position to a supporting role at best.
On Sunday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin emphasized Israel’s interest in negotiating with the Palestinians, but lamented that the other side has not shared that approach. “We are trying to do all we can to renew the negotiations between us and the Palestinians,” said Rivlin in a press release from his office. “Unfortunately the Palestinians are looking for other arenas to debate with us in the international arena.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 5, 2016)