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Deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Can It Be Broken?

The meeting with Abbas allowed Russian authorities to deliver all the necessary information about their actions in Syria and expect the Palestinian leader's further favorable interpretation of the mission in contacts with Arab authorities.

It appears that the Palestinian leader had a good reason to find himself amongst high-ranking foreign guests – President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – at the solemn opening ceremony. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had urgently visited Moscow two days prior to that. His meeting with Putin and the problems discussed were centered on Russia's extended military assistance to Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. In its strive to demonstrate a balanced approach to the parties of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Moscow seems to be exploiting the opportunity to counterbalance top-level contacts with Israelis by holding a meeting with the Palestinian leader.

Moreover, Moscow's course towards intensification of military collaboration in combating the terrorist organization ISIS in Syria requires talks with Arab leaders to clarify its goals and garner their support whenever possible. The meeting with Abbas allowed Russian authorities to deliver all the necessary information about their actions in Syria and expect the Palestinian leader's further favorable interpretation of the mission in contacts with Arab authorities. At the talks with the Russian president, the Palestinian leader opined that a "door for political settlement" of the conflict in Syria had opened.

The moment for Abbas' visit to Moscow was also conditioned by such a crucial factor as the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly. His visit to Moscow had been preceded by a meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris. The French diplomats had been the ones working on an initiative to revive the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians in the last months and planning to present it at the session in New York. The initiative was supposed to include development of a road map to settle the key issues and fix clear deadlines for withdrawal of Israeli armies from the territories designated for the State of Palestine.

In Moscow, the Palestinian leader discussed the situation in Jerusalem that had been escalating in the past weeks. He condemned Israel's settlement policy on the West Bank of Jordan and the attacks of Jewish religious and nationalistic extremists on Palestinian Arabs. However, as Mr. Abbas noted, one of the pivotal topics of his talks with Mr. Putin was the steps that Palestinians needed to take at the UN General Assembly.

In recent months, Abbas has been giving reasons to assume that he would announce some radical proposals at the UN to break the deadlock in the Palestine-Israel relations. On several occasions, he threatened to dissolve the Palestinian National Authority, denounce the agreements signed with Israel in the 1990s and step down. That, according to the Palestinian leader's plan, would force Israel to take full responsibility for the state of affairs on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, therefore, making Israel look like the occupation state from the standpoint of the international law.

At the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Palestinians were behind the eight ball. The Palestinian problem, just a while ago a central issue of the universal forum, was put on the back burner in 2015, if not forgotten. It was pushed aside by the developments in Syria, the international community's need to fight against the terrorist threat posed by Islamic extremists, preeminently by the organization calling itself the Islamic State. US President Barack Obama paid minimum attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in his speech, the Russian president didn’t touch upon this problem in his address, most of which was dedicated to the Middle East region. The adopted resolution allowing UN observers to raise their flags at the Organization's Headquarters, as full members do, acts as a sort of compensation to Palestinians.

In this context, Mr. Abbas probably decided to avoid risky steps. Perhaps, at the meeting in Moscow, he was advised to refrain from exacerbation of the situation or from putting Israel in the line of fire when the situation would require the international community to unite all the available forces to combat the Islamic terror and Jihadism. Whatever the case, Abbas' speech at the UN on September 30 was not as sensational as some analysts had predicted. The Palestinian leader strongly criticized Israel for the settlement policy and expressed disappointment with the lack of international support to the Palestinian nation. The only divergence in his regular speech was the threat to renege on the Oslo Accords due to Israel's failure to comply with the commitments fixed in the document.

It is hard to imagine the practical consequences of such a declaration. No unilateral actions have facilitated the solution of the problems of Palestine and Israel yet. Mahmoud Abbas, as a skilled politician is well aware that the disintegrated Arab world drowning in domestic warfare would hardly approve overthrow of the fragile status quo in the Palestinian issue. The four international mediators, whose session is held within the framework of the General Assembly, have not distinguished themselves as an efficient mechanism in settling the conflict throughout many years. Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been yielding positive results. In the future, they will be the only source for an answer to the complicated problems the two nations face.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.