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Netanyahu to keep upper hand in Palestinian peace portfolio

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Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: U.S. Department of State

Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: U.S. Department of State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the final say in future talks with Palestinians, an official said Tuesday, after Interior Minister Silvan Shalom was entrusted to oversee negotiations.

“The prime minister is responsible for the negotiations, Silvan Shalom will be holding the meetings with the Palestinians along with Yitzhak Molcho, the personal envoy of the premier,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced he had charged Shalom, a veteran member of his rightwing Likud party, with conducting peace talks with the Palestinians.

Molcho, a discreet lawyer and Netanyahu confidant, was part of the last round of negotiations conducted by then-justice minister Tzipi Livni with the Palestinians under American auspices.

The talks fell apart in April 2014, and prospects for their renewal seem bleak with a lack of trust between the sides exacerbated by the formation of Netanyahu’s new coalition.

The government is among Israel’s most rightwing ever and contains several ministers openly hostile to a Palestinian state.

The head of leftwing opposition party Meretz on Tuesday slammed Shalom’s “empty” position.

“This is a sad joke,” said Zehava Galon, noting past remarks Shalom had made against a Palestinian state.

Galon also questioned the timing of the appointment, just days before EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was due for talks with Israel and Palestinian leaders.


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