Israel denies new Russian offer to host Netanyahu-Abbas peace talks
search

Israel denies new Russian offer to host Netanyahu-Abbas peace talks

Moscow said it reissued longstanding invitation during meeting between PM and Putin last week; diplomatic source in Jerusalem says topic wasn’t raised

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during the state funeral of late president Shimon Peres, held at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during the state funeral of late president Shimon Peres, held at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

An Israeli official on Monday denied that Russia had offered, during the prime minister’s visit to Moscow last week, to host a summit meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

A statement from the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv earlier in the day said that the issue had been raised during the trip.

Quoting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the statement said that “during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow, the situation in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement was discussed. We reaffirmed our position on Russia’s interest in overcoming the deadlock in this matter as soon as possible.

“Our proposal to host leaders of Israel and Palestine remains relevant. We believe that it would be at least a very important step in restoring confidence. Without this, it is impossible to count on further progress in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement,” it  said.

But in response, a senior Israeli diplomatic official told Hebrew media that “the issue was never discussed.”

Netanyahu made a one-day trip to Moscow last week for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he said focused on Israel’s attempt’s to stop the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and improve ties with Moscow, frayed since the downing of a Russian plane over Syria during an Israeli strike in September.

Even though the plane was shot down by Syrian air defense, Moscow blamed Israel, saying the IAF used the Russian aircraft as cover and did not give the Russians proper warning. Israel denies both charges.

Netanyahu has credited his close ties with Putin for the success of a system allowing Israel to carry out strikes in Syria without becoming entangled with Russia, which is allied with Syria’s President Bashar Assad, but those ties reportedly took a hit in the wake of the spy plane incident.

Putin welcomed his Israeli guest, but did not specifically mention Iran or Syria in his remarks. “It is very important that we continue to cooperate. Russia was a supporter of the establishment of Israel. We are happy to talk about the situation in the region and the security issue,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 27, 2019. (MAXIM SHEMETOV / POOL / AFP)

Russia’s offer to host a Mideast summit is longstanding, but has not been taken up, with Israel maintaining that only the US can mediate the conflict.

However, Palestinian ties with the US are at an all-time low, even as the Trump administration gears up to launch its peace plan, probably after the Israeli elections in April.

On Monday the US officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the US Embassy to Israel.

The downgrade is the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the US administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Senior Adviser to the US President Jared Kushner (r) speaks as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman looks on at the official opening ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last year the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, winning widespread praise in Israel while upending US policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the US role in peacemaking.

The downgrade is the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the US administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees, whose definition of ongoing generations of Palestinians as refugees is opposed by Israel and has been criticized by the US. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

The Trump administration, which has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as a factor behind some of these measures, has yet to present its much-anticipated proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

read more:
less
comments
more