Silvan Shalom appointed to head Israeli peace efforts

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly handed Interior Minister Silvan Shalom responsibility for peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), should they resume.

The appointment was first reported by Israel Radio yesterday and has since been widely covered elsewhere. AFP quotes an anonymous Israeli official saying, “The prime minister has charged Silvan Shalom with conducting in his name the negotiations with the Palestinians.” Shalom is a senior Likud MK and has held a variety of ministerial positions since 1998, including having served as Foreign Minister between 2003 and 2006. As Minister of National Infrastructure in the last government, Shalom concluded a water sharing treaty with the PA and Jordan.

In heading Israel’s future negotiating team, he will fill the role previously served by Tzipi Livni during the last round of US-spearheaded peace talks, which ended in April 2014 after the PA agreed to form a unity government alongside Hamas.

Last week, Israel’s new coalition government published its agreed policy guidelines, which include a commitment to “advance the diplomatic process and strive to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and all our neighbours.” Prime Minister Netanyahu set out his coalition’s agenda during a Knesset session on Thursday to approve the government, during which he said that advancing peace would be a priority.

Meanwhile, European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini yesterday said that she is eager for the EU to play a significant role in brokering a two-state solution between Israel and the PA. Speaking on the eve of her first visit to the region in office, Mogherini said, “The European Union is ready and willing to play a major role in a re-launching of this process on the basis of the two-state solution.” She added that, “One thing is clear to everyone in the region … the status quo is not an option.” Mogherini is set to meet Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas during the coming two days.

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