Russian Summit Aims to Repair US–Palestinian Ties

May 21, 2020

by: Kate Norman

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Palestinian Authority President Abbas (left) with Russian President Putin

Thursday, 21 May 2020 | Russia is reportedly trying to set up a roundtable within the next few weeks in an attempt to warm up relations between the US and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The meeting would provide the PA with an opportunity to suggest alterations to President Donald Trump’s peace proposal in a neutral setting, according to a Channel 13 report that cited unnamed officials.

Other attendees would include the Middle East Quartet—which comprises Russia, the US, the European Union and the United Nations—and officials from various Middle Eastern nations. No one is sure whether Israel will be invited to participate.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov pitched the idea to US Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz in a phone call on Tuesday. Berkowitz did not reject the idea but conditioned that the US would only participate if the meeting were to use Trump’s peace plan as a foundation on which to negotiate, the Times of Israel reported.

The PA has been banning the US since President Trump declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital in 2017. Each of Trump’s successive actions, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and releasing the peace plan in January, have further angered the Palestinian leadership.

Tensions between the powers have heightened since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at the swearing in of the new Knesset (Parliament) that one of the main focuses for the new government is applying Israeli sovereignty over land in Judea and Samaria. The prime minister is seeking to annex land in the biblical heartland in accordance with Trump’s peace plan.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer is rallying support for the move in a race to implement it before the US presidential election in November as Trump’s rival, Joe Biden, has voiced his disapproval of annexation.

Abbas responded to Netanyahu’s announcement with an announcement of his own: the PA will sever coordination with Israel and the US, including security coordination. Few people have taken him seriously, however.

An expert on the region from the European Council on Foreign Relations told the Times of Israel: “We have been here before, many times. Abbas has yet to follow through, emptying such threats of any potential deterrence. Yet, as annexation looms his declaration should nonetheless be interpreted as one last desperate shot across the bow.”

The PA president isn’t the only one to panic at the news. European leaders are also in a kerfuffle, and foreign ministers from the European Union have been issuing statements scolding the Jewish state and meeting to determine how to discourage Israel from moving forward. The UN and even the Vatican also have thrown their hats into the Israel-scolding ring.

Israel’s new defense minister and alternate prime minister, Benny Gantz, has voiced his concerns about annexation but announced earlier this week that he would implement Trump’s plan “and everything it contains.”

Posted on May 21, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 21, 2020)

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