Palestine requests Russia to take over

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to request Russia to help form an international multilateral mechanism for sponsoring the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

Ever since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Abbas has noted that Palestine would not accept the US’ role as the moderator for the process. 

Background

Jerusalem is considered to be one of the holiest sites by millions of people (Christians, Muslims and Jews).  Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as the State of Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there, while the State of Palestine ultimately foresees the city as its seat of power. So far, neither claim is widely recognized internationally. The Battle for Jerusalem occurred from December 1947 to 18 July 1948. As a result, the city was split between Israel and Jordan after the war, with Israel ruling West Jerusalem and Jordan ruling East Jerusalem with the Old City.

On December 6th, 2017, US President Donald Trump pivoted from decades’ long US foreign policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s announcement triggered a wave of protests and violence across the Middle East. More than 10,000 people have protested so far - a week after the announcement.

In 2018, after repeatedly criticizing the value of aid, the US administration announced that it would be withholding nearly half of the initial aid it was planning on giving to a UN agency that helps Palestinians. According to the US State Department, the nation would provide $60 million in aid but will withhold $65 million for now.

Since the 1970s, there has been a parallel effort made to find terms upon which peace can be agreed to in both the Arab-Israeli conflict and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Russia remains an important player in the Middle East peace process and is a member of the Middle East Quartet. In 2017, in a move that surprised the international community, Russia recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. "We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state," the ministry said. "At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel." 

 

Analysis

After Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Palestinian, President Mahmoud Abbas sharply attacked Trump's Middle East peace efforts, saying he would not accept any peace plan from the US after its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The talks between Israel and Palestine last broke down in 2014.

Since then, Europe has taken on a larger role and the European Union not only increased its aid to Palestine but also indicated that it would take a larger role in the peace process. "Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players - all partners - that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. "Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone," Mogherini told reporters in Brussels.

Palestinian authorities have now confirmed that President Abbas would be requesting Russian President Vladimir Putin to help form an international multilateral mechanism for sponsoring the peace process. This would not only place more power with Russia but would also diminish the US’ current role as chief moderator in the process.

“Russia and Putin can play an important role within the frame of an international forum for peace,” said Majdi al-Khalidi, diplomatic adviser to Abbas. Another PA official has been quoted as noting, “President Abbas is hoping to win Putin’s support for the idea of an international multilateral mechanism for achieving peace in the Middle East.”

PA envoy to Moscow, Abd al Hafiz Nofal, has however affirmed that Palestine was not looking to entirely supplant US from the position. “We are only asking that other parties join the US in sponsoring the peace process,” Nofal said. “Our goal is to end US exclusivity. We have also explored the positions of other parties, such as the EU and China.” Russia has not publicly declared if it is planning on taking the responsibility of creating a new multilateral peace process or not.  

Assessment

Our assessment is that Palestine losing trust in the current process, has resulted in the diminishment of the US influence in the region. Palestine believes that President Trump’s actions prove that the US has a bias towards Israel and will therefore no longer be an effective moderator. President Abbas’ request also indicates that Russia’s influence in the region has continued to grow in recent years. This should be of concern especially to the so-called “Beltway” politicians in Washington.

We feel that India has a very constructive role to play, given our special relationship with Palestine and Prime Minister Modi’s personal equation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It would be a wonderful opportunity to retake its position as an elder statesman in negotiating regional peace. 

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