Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been maintaining a secret channel of talks for several years now, Yediot Achronot reports today.
Attorney Yitzchak Molcho, Netanyahu’s confidant, has been traveling to London from time to time and meeting with one of Abbas’ associates. This back-channel diplomacy includes an exchange of messages and ideas and is aimed at solving problems troubling both sides.
The channel was highly significant during Netanyahu’s previous term, when there were no official negotiations. Both Netanyahu and Abbas have kept the talks confidential in order to avoid political pressures.
After the renewal of peace talks brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the importance of the secret channel diminished, likely prompting Netanyahu to inform some of the Israelis and Americans involved in the talks about the back channel.
One of Yediot’s sources indicated that Bassel Aqel, a Palestinian businessman living in London, may be Abbas’ representative to the secret talks. Aqel is a close friend of the Palestinian president. This estimate has no definite confirmation, but different sources have confirmed the existence of the channel, the identity of the Israeli representative (Molcho), the location (London) and the fact that the channel has been active since the previous government’s term.
Read more at Yediot Achronot.