Putin invites Netanyahu, Abbas to World Cup final, prompting summit speculation
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4 Arab states said backing Trump plan even if Abbas doesn't

Putin invites Netanyahu, Abbas to World Cup final, prompting summit speculation

PM is reportedly mulling attending July 14 game in Moscow alongside PA leader, who has already accepted invitation, triggering talk of a possible face-to-face meeting

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 9, 2018. (AFP/Sergei Ilnitsky)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 9, 2018. (AFP/Sergei Ilnitsky)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to attend the World Cup final in Moscow next month.

Netanyahu is considering attending the July 15 game if Israeli security requirements can be met, according to reports in Hebrew-language media Monday.

Earlier, Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rjoub announced that Abbas would travel to Russia for the game, and would also meet with Putin. He told the official PA news outlet Wafa that the two leaders would discuss “bilateral relations and the latest political developments.”

Putin has reportedly invited other world leaders to the World Cup final, which will be held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

There was no indication Netanyahu and Abbas would meet while in the Russian capital, but Putin has previously tried to host talks between them.

Netanyahu and Abbas have not met for substantive talks since 2010, and regional peace efforts have continued to falter since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

When Putin invited Netanyahu and Abbas for talks in 2016, both leaders expressed willingness to meet each other face-to-face, but Moscow’s efforts to broker the meeting became bogged down amid mutual accusations that the other side was unwilling to negotiate.

Reports of a possible Netanyahu-Abbas meeting come amid a US push to jumpstart a regional peace plan that has been blackballed by the Palestinian Authority amid anger over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the US embassy there in May.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shows the way to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (AFP/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, toured the region last week, but did not meet with any Ramallah officials. The Palestinians refused to meet with the Trump officials, and PA leaders have criticized the Trump negotiating team in recent days.

The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom late Sunday claimed that senior officials in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and ‎the United Arab Emirates have indicated to the US team that they are prepared to back the Trump Administration peace plan even if the Palestinian Authority rejects it. There was no confirmation of the report, which quoted unnamed sources in Cairo and Amman.

On Saturday, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Kushner and Greenblatt of trying to topple the Abbas-led government and dismantle the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees. On Sunday, Erekat doubled down on his criticism, telling Israel’s Channel 10 that the American negotiators are “not neutral” and predicting their peace plan would fail.

In response, Kushner appealed directly to Palestinians in an interview published in the Arabic language Al-Quds over the weekend, accusing Abbas and the Palestinian leadership of not cooperating with peace efforts.

He alleged that Ramallah was “scared we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it” because it would offer them a better life.

“The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive toward achieving peace,” Kushner added. “There are a lot of sharp statements and condemnations, but no ideas or efforts with prospects of success.”

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