Israeli and Palestinian officials held private London talks last year

Israeli and Palestinian officials held private London talks last year

Off-the-radar talks talks held between Israel and Palestinian Authority, hosted by Chatham House and BICOM in 2016

Benjamin Netanyahu with Mahmoud Abbas
Benjamin Netanyahu with Mahmoud Abbas

Israeli and Palestinian officials held off-the-radar talks in London last year which facilitators said “broke new ground” in an attempt to restart peace negotiations.

The private meeting, involving government representatives, academics and security figures from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was hosted by two London-based think-tanks, Chatham House and BICOM.

Those involved said there was widespread agreement that bilateral negotiations now represented a “tired” old model, and there was a willingness to work towards a “hybrid model,” perhaps involving Arab states.

“These talks were constructive and serious,” said BICOM chief executive James Sorene. “We broke new ground with some clear proposals for future negotiations and rare points of agreement.”

Bilateral negotiations have been pursued since the Oslo Accords in 1995, but he said “both agreed that a successful process relies on a secret bilateral back channel with strong third party involvement at the right time, including Arab countries”.

The idea of a regional framework has gained credence in recent years, with many observers seeing the diplomatic and economic opportunities offered by the Arab world as crucial to allowing Israeli politicians to key concessions.

“Independent of any potential Western involvement – which may be limited – the role of regional actors matters hugely,” read a subsequent BICOM briefing note.

“While the Palestinians need regional diplomatic cover to make the two-state deal, Israelis need regional involvement in resolving the core issues as well as regional buy-in and cooperation to take the security risks involved in territorial compromise.”

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