Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas won Arab League backing today to enter direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – a step the US and Israel have been pushing for.
Setting the stage for the Palestinians to negotiate directly with Israel, the Arab League agreed in principle today to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas holding face-to-face peace talks with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The decision of the Arab League's forum on Israeli-Palestinian talks is significant because it provides political cover for Mr. Abbas, who has been locked in a battle for legitimacy with Islamists from Hamas who oppose negotiations with Israel.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told Reuters "of course there is agreement'' in the Arab League for direct talks. The statement represents a victory for the Obama administration's effort to lobby the Palestinians for face-to-face negotiations, warning them that without such an agreement the US could not help Palestinians secure an eventual peace deal.
Arab governments "gave [Abbas] a mandate," says Munther Dajani, a political science professor at Al Quds University. "They gave the legitimacy he needs and the support by saying, 'Go ahead, you are not alone, we support you."