Russia offers to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians

Lavrov says no stability in the region until Palestinian issue resolved; offer comes as sides wait for long-expected launch of Trump peace plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the Mediterranean dialogues conference in Rome, Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the Mediterranean dialogues conference in Rome, Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday said that Russia was willing to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, and that stability in the region could not be reached until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved.

“It is impossible to create stability in the Middle East, including in Libya and Iraq, without a solution to the oldest regional problem, the Palestinian problem,” said Lavrov, who was on a two-day trip to Rome.

“We support the need for a resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We confirm again our offer from several years ago to host a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Russia without any preconditions,” he said.

The offer came as relations between the Palestinians and the US, the traditional Mideast peace mediators, are at an all-time low.

The Trump administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is expected to be rolled out in the coming months.

But the plan is unlikely to be welcome by either side, especially with the Palestinian Authority boycotting the Trump administration since its recognition last December of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The PA has vowed to oppose the “deal of the century.” Israel’s shaky right-wing coalition government, meantime, is down to a majority of just 61 in the 120 seat Knesset after Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister to protest last week’s Gaza ceasefire.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that she would counsel the American leader that any such proposal was “a waste of time.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at a Knesset plenary session, March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“I think that the gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis is much too big to be bridged,” she said in an English-language interview on stage at the Jerusalem Post diplomatic conference. She added: “I think personally it’s a waste of time. Although I want peace like anyone else, I think I’m just more realistic. And I know that in the current future, it is impossible.”

Trump was set to hold a meeting with top advisers this week to review his administration’s peace plan and discuss the timing for its release, according to a television report on Sunday.

The meeting was to be attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, the Channel 10 report said. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the meeting as well.

US officials told the news channel that Trump wants to see the plan rolled out by February, but his advisers favored taking a more cautious approach, in light of the political crisis that engulfed Israel over the past week, and the razor-thin 61-seat parliamentary majority that the Netanyahu government now holds.

Although the Trump administration has been touting its peace plan for months, details of it have been scant, and the Palestinians have vowed not to cooperate with US efforts.

Israel has also maintained that only the US can mediate the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (AFP/ Pool/Yuri Kadobnov)

Jerusalem’s relations with Moscow have also been tense in recent months since the downing of a Russian plane over Syria during an Israeli strike.

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.

Also Friday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said he would visit Moscow on December 21 for talks with Lavrov.

“I will personally visit Moscow on December 21 at Lavrov’s invitation. We will, of course, discuss not only bilateral relations with the Russian Federation but also… possible breakthroughs in the political process and Russian-level efforts to restore the political process to its right track,” Malki told Sputnik on the sidelines of the Mediterranean Dialogues forum in Rome.

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