Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas reportedly conducted a clandestine dialogue for years using confidants who met in London to pass messages between the two camps.
The Hebrew language daily Yedioth Ahronoth said on Thursday that according to its sources, Netanyahu entrusted lawyer Yitzhak Molcho with the delicate task of making contact with a Palestinian representative of Abbas.
The communication channel was used to exchange message, ideas, and to try to resolve problems between the two authorities. Although the identity of the Palestinian partner in the meetings is less clear, sources suggested Bassil Akel, a London-based Palestinian businessman and close friend of Abbas, as a likely candidate.
According to the report, the behind-the-scenes meetings were most significant during the previous Israeli government when official negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians ground to a halt. Since official talks resumed in the summer of 2013, with Molcho as a key Israeli negotiator, the secret channel has become mostly obsolete.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the report to The Times of Israel.
While Israel and the PA deal maintain contact via the Israel Defense Forces, civil administration and Palestinian security establishment to deal with day-to-day issues, the purpose of the London channel seemed to be focused on reaching a diplomatic breakthrough.
The secrecy of the encounters apparently enabled the meetings to operate without interference and political pressure.