A new proposal for Middle East peace talks has emerged alongside France’s plans, and this one isn’t in Jerusalem, Ramallah, or Cairo. In fact, it’s not in the Middle East at all—it’s in Moscow. But despite the change in venue, it doesn’t look as though the Palestinians are changing demands of preconditions before talks, so the negotiations may be dead before they’ve even started.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced last week in an interview republished in Ahram Online that Russian President Vladimir Putin was interested in hosting direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. If they occur, it would mark the first public and official bilateral peace talks in years. But moving from an invitation to a meeting will be a challenge. The Times of Israel reported on Sunday that the Palestinians aren’t budging on their preconditions for talks: releasing Palestinian prisoners and a moratorium on Israeli settlement construction.
Israel has long balked at making concessions simply for the privilege to enter talks with the Palestinians, saying both sides should negotiate unconditionally.
Nonetheless, The Jerusalem Post—citing a report in their sister publication Maariv—said that the Palestinians have already held discussions with the Russians about talks by the end of the year between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel has long opposed the French peace initiative, which has taken on the air of outside imposition of a solution to the conflict, but Netanyahu has publicly endorsed Egypt’s interest and Sisi’s prior call for peace.
In the meantime, Israel is looking at improving relations with Arab states with the vision that that eventually will have a positive impact on the situation with the Palestinians as well. The Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dore Gold, tweeted a link to an editorial in The New York Times asking if Israel could be friends with Arab states. Tweeted Gold in response, “Yes, and peace with Arab states will spread to Palestinians as well.”
As for the Russian proposal, one former negotiator in the Israel-Palestinian process—Aaron David Miller—already has published his thoughts on whether or not it will succeed. Promoting an opinion column he wrote for CNN, Miller tweeted, “Can Putin Broker Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians? Good Luck w/that one.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 28, 2016)