Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (not seen) sign an agreement and an MoU, in the West Bank - Reuters
CAIRO - 8 February 2018: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not only seem to be searching for alternatives to the U.S. for the mediator role with Israel, but to change the whole mediating strategy; abandoning the one-state mediator option to the multi-state mediator, which will end the one-state dominance over the case internationally.
After Trump’s decision on December 6 to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the latter as the official capital of Israel, the Palestinian administration described Trump’s administration as unfair and disqualified more than once. Additionally, it was announced that Palestine was considering involving several countries during the talks.
Over and above, in the U.S. has repeatedly stated their interest in remaining a key player in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Abbas and his administration replied aggressively, calling the U.S. proposal “nonsense” after Trump’s move, which has received an international backlash.
China and Russia were Abbas’ top choices to serve as mediators, according to Palestinian sources speaking to Al-Hayat, a London-based newspaper last December. Both of the Palestinian choices would not be considered as U.S. friends or allies but rather ‘rivals’ according to Trump himself.
During his first State of the Union speech in which he addressed congress on January 30, Trump said China and Russia are challenging the U.S. economy and interests. Talking about the challenges that his country is facing, he talked about the “rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values.”
Looking at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts that cannot be neglected in the Middle East, especially Syria, along with the unfriendly relations between Moscow and the U.S., Abbas’ choices won’t be much welcomed by Trump.
Speaking on February 1 to Republican lawmakers in West Virginia, U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that “Russia is not, will not be our friend … and yes, Russia did meddle in our elections.”
“There may be some things we can work with them on, and we should do that where we can. But Russia will not be our friend as long as their government has the values it has,” Haley added.
Playing a vital rule in the Syrian Civil War since responding to President Bashar al-Assad’s call to interfere in the country in September 2015, Putin has been enhancing his influence in the region.
A Palestinian diplomat in Russia told the Russian Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Abbas and Putin will discuss a new proposed peace negotiation mechanism meant to sideline the United States when they meet on February 12 in the Black Sea beach resort of Sochi.
Expanding his list of choices, Abbas is intending to ask other countries and even organizations to become mediators with Israel. Those countries and entities are to include India, the European Union and some of the EU countries according to Majdi el-Khaldi, the diplomatic adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Khaldi said in statements to the Hindu newspaper on Wednesday that Abbas will ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mediate during his anticipated visit to Palestine on February 9. Modi is expected to start a Middle East tour that will include Palestine, the UAE and Oman.
“The U.S. can no longer be the only mediator,” he said, referring to the U.S.’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “We are asking the European Union and EU countries to mediate, and we are inviting India, which will be a strong leader in a multipolar world, to assist the process,” Khaldi added.
On January 29, a senior Palestinian official, and Abbas’ advisor for international and foreign relations, Nabil Shaath, met with the Japanese prime minster and other high-level officials. According to statements reported by Sputnik news agency, Shaath demanded Japanese officials to participate in the peace and negotiation process with Israel. “This move comes specifically in this time as a response for Trump’s decision over Jerusalem,” he said.
Russia, China, Japan, India and the European Union are the, yet unofficial, solution of the multi-state mediator considered by Abbas in order to resume the international negotiations with Israel in the near future. However, it is not yet clear if any of the states gave the Palestinian administration a green card to issue official statements, the U.S. undoubtedly did not.