Moscow Summit Between Netanyahu and Abbas in the Works, Say Palestinian Officials

Netanyahu's Bureau officials say the PM is willing to meet Abbas, on the condition he poses no preconditions for the meeting; adviser to Abbas says meeting would be meaningless if core issues not discussed.

AP

Preliminary talks have taken place about the possibility of holding a meeting in Moscow between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but nothing seems likely to be settled anytime soon, senior Palestinian officials told Haaretz.

The officials said there hasn’t yet been any discussion of a possible date for the summit.

Dr. Ahmed Majdalani, an advisor to Abbas and member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, told Haaretz that what interests Palestinians isn’t whether or not a meeting takes place, but what results it will produce and whether Netanyahu is willing to freeze settlement construction, release Palestinian prisoners and meet other Palestinian demands.

“A few weeks ago, they were talking about Cairo and now they’re talking about Moscow, and perhaps in the future, they’ll talk about someplace else,” he said. “But changing the venue won’t change the Palestinian position, and there are agreements Netanyahu must fulfill, like freezing settlement construction, freeing the fourth tranche of veteran prisoners and setting a deadline for ending the occupation. Otherwise, any meeting will be superfluous and won’t lead to any progress.”

The “fourth tranche” of prisoners refers to a deal made prior to the U.S.-brokered peace talks that began in the summer of 2013. Under that agreement, Israel was to release four batches of Palestinian prisoners over the course of the talks. But in the end, the talks collapsed and the fourth batch was never released.

Majdalani said most of the reports about a summit are coming from either Netanyahu’s office or unnamed sources in the PA that, he claimed, serve Israel’s interests, with the goal of thwarting a French initiative for an international peace conference this fall by creating a pretense that direct talks are taking place. Therefore, he said, the PA is very leery of this strategy, and it’s reluctant to agree to any meeting that doesn’t include clear guidelines to ensure progress.

In Netanyahu's Bureau, officials said that the PM was willing to meet Abbas in Moscow if the Palestinians pose no preconditions.

Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the Moscow summit initiative over the weekend by phone

Last week, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Putin expressed readiness to host Netanyahu and Abbas for direct talks in Moscow.

“The Russian president has informed me that he has invited Palestinian President Abu Mazen and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for a meeting in Moscow,” al-Sissi said, referring to Abbas by his nickname. “Egypt supports these efforts and both sides are urged to participate and respond positively to the initiative for the sake of finding light at the end of the tunnel for Palestinians and establishing their state alongside Israel.”

The Egyptian president said “there is need for change, if there is a mutual desire by both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, as well as by the international community.”

Haaretz reported earlier this week that senior European officials have been trying unsuccessfully for several weeks to arrange a Netanyahu-Abbas meeting.

Each side blames the other for the failure to arrange the meeting. Officials on both sides said the meeting didn’t take place because Israel rejected a Palestinian demand to hold a preparatory meeting of their respective advisers - Yitzhak Molcho and Saeb Erekat.