JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel and the Palestinians held secret back-channel peace negotiations, the New Republic reported.
The secret negotiations created substantial progress toward an agreement but collapsed when it became clear the Palestinian negotiator did not have the backing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the article published Wednesday.
The secret talks began in 2010 between Isaac Molho, an attorney and confidante of Netanyahu, and a confidante of Abbas’ whom the magazine said it did not name for fear for his safety. The talks also were shepherded by Dennis Ross, then-special foreign policy adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama.
The secret plan agreed on borders for a new Palestinian state and recognized Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people while clarifying that it would not harm the rights of Arab citizens of Israel, according to the magazine. The secret negotiators also discussed the Palestinian refugee issue and reached creative wording acceptable to both sides. They could not reach an understanding on Jerusalem, according to the magazine.
Abbas announced at the end of 2013, as the U.S.-backed peace talks were failing, that there were no secret, back-channel negotiations, causing concern in Israel.
“Perhaps what the Israelis considered a serious back channel, the Palestinians – including their man in the room – saw as merely an unofficial exchange of ideas,” the New Republic article said. “Only two people can really solve the mystery, Yitzhak Molho and his negotiating counterpart. Both of them refused to comment.”