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Abbas to Putin: Willing to Negotiate with Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, telling him he was prepared to return to the negotiating table to conduct peace talks with Israel. In a telephone conversation between Ramallah and Moscow, Abbas told his Russian counterpart that the PA would be willing to meet with the Israelis as long as the talks were based on “international legitimacy” and included other countries as arbitrators. According to the PA news agency that reported the conversation, Putin reiterated his support for a two-state solution as a basis for peace. The PA’s new willingness to negotiate with Israel is a noticeable shift from its previous policy of stonewalling both Israeli and American officials, a shift that many see as an attempt to force US President Donald Trump to shelve his proposed peace plan. Trump’s “Vision for Peace,” revealed in January, is considered to be the most Israel-friendly proposal ever submitted by the United States and includes the annexation by Israel of 30% of the West Bank territories along with the creation of a Palestinian state. The PA rejected the proposal outright, leading Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to announce that he would go forward with the annexation portion alone. It was only on the eve of the suggested date Prime Minister Netanyahu set for the onset of the annexation policy that Abbas surprised many by announcing his readiness to return to the table for the first time since the last American peacemaking effort failed under then-President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.