Netanyahu appoints minister to handle Palestinian peace talks

Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed Minister Silvan Shalom to explore continuing talks with the Palestinians. Shalom is also in charge of strategic dialogue with the US.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
Netanyahu Shalom

PM Netanyahu confers with Minister Shalom. (Amit Shabi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday entrusted Minister of the Interior Silvan Shalom with all aspects concerning diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). Shalom is also in charge of strategic dialogue with the US. He has served as foreign minister in the past.

Shalom is replacing Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union party.

Israel’s NRG news site reports that Shalom stated off the record that the fact that he was appointed by Netanyahu attests to his true desire to negotiate with the Palestinians. “This stands in contrast to the allegations that Israel is refusing to accept a peace settlement and counters the Palestinians’ claims that their only option is unilateral diplomatic moves,” he allegedly said.

Shalom also reportedly said that he was willing to negotiate “any issue and any aspect,” ranging from the “heavy issues” such as UN recognition of the Palestinian state to the smaller issues concerning day-to-day life in the PA-ruled territories.

Shalom added that US President Barack Obama’s recent assertion that a diplomatic solution between Israel and the PA is not foreseeable in the near future is of “great significance.”

Obama stated on Sunday that prospects for a final deal between Israel and the PA in the short term were slim, “given the makeup of the Netanyahu government, given the challenges that I think exist for [PA] President Abbas.”

Arab Member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Isawi Frej of the left-wing Meretz political party condemned Shalom’s appointment within a few hours after it was announced. He derided the title as empty, saying, “It would have been better if, rather than appointing Shalom to deal with nothing, he himself [Netanyahu] would attempt to truly promote the diplomatic negotiations.”

In the meantime, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini is slated to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for talks with Netanyahu and Abbas regarding the peace process.