The Jewish Chronicle's Martin Bright has revealed details of "a secret meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority" alleged to have taken place in London earlier this year. Alarmingly, given the history of the end-result of such discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, Bright claims that the meeting is "part of a series of back-channel negotiations to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East". It was hosted, says the JC, "by UK businessman Poju Zabludowicz at his north London home".
Zabludowicz is no neutral, well-meaning third-party; his father built his fortune, said a January 2009 Observer article, in the Israeli arms industry. Israeli weapons and munitions are, of course, used regularly to devastating effect against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Abbas should know that. In Peter Oborne's TV documentary of the same year, Zabludowicz was alleged to have interests in an illegal West Bank settlement. Abbas should know that too. Zabludowicz is also the main donor behind and chairman of BICOM, the British Israel Communication and Research Centre, which is a mainstay of the pro-Israel Lobby in the UK. The president should have been advised about that.
In short, the Finnish-born Jewish billionaire is an unlikely peacemaker, which makes the willingness of the president of the Palestinian Authority to accept this exclusive dinner invitation all the more perturbing. It could be that we are witnessing a déjà vu moment in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The road to Oslo, after all, passed through London.
Although details of the meeting have not been disclosed, "there has been considerable speculation" about them. The Palestinians, however, do not need to speculate about where this secrecy could lead; they have 17 years of post-Oslo Israeli settlement expansion, the Apartheid Wall and a Palestinian Authority security apparatus which operates as a branch of Israel's security forces to know where "secret negotiations" can and do take them. Oh, and the possibility of relatively meaningless UN recognition of an independent state [sic] to come. Israel's military occupation and colonisation of Palestine, meanwhile, continues apace with brutal efficiency.
The PA needs to be more transparent in its dealings on behalf of the Palestinians. Peres may be a Nobel Peace laureate, but his hands have Palestinian blood on them; Zabludowicz has a hands-on approach at BICOM which is crucial to the Israeli propaganda campaign as it glosses over Israel's infringements of international law, including allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip in 2008/9. The billionaire is no angel.
A central plank of Zionism is the continuous expansion of the state of Israel. Negotiations, secret or otherwise, with Zionist ideologues who covet Palestine from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan, and are active in implementing settlement and annexation policies to achieve this, are unlikely to offer Palestinians anything more than the crumbs they deem fit to dust off the negotiation table. The non-contiguous slivers of the West Bank, which Israel may concede as the PA's "independent state of Palestine", are ample testimony to this.
Mahmoud Abbas should be more discerning about who he dines with. Having been pushed into a corner by Israel and an aggressively partisan "honest broker" in the shape of successive US administrations, he should demonstrate that he retains some self-respect and care for his people by abandoning road maps to nowhere which seek to impose peace without justice, and the secret deals which draft them.
Millions of Palestinians are refugees due to the policies of the state of which Abbas's fellow diner Peres is president. That should tell him all he needs to know about the man's sincerity, peace laureate or not. Beware of Zionists bearing gifts, Mr Abbas; they will continue to take and your people must give. Haven't the past 17 years post-Oslo taught you anything?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.