Putin’s scores unexpected goal; invites Israel, Palestine leaders to World Cup final
In what is seen as a major diplomatic coup, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly sent invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and latter's Palestinian Authority counterpart Mahmoud Abbas to attend the final of the Fifa World Cup to be held in Moscow on July 15.
Netanyahu is considering to accept the invitation of the security arrangements could be met, the Times of Israel cited reports in the Hebrew language media as saying on Monday, June 25.
Hibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, said on the other hand that Abbas would go to Russia to see the final and meet Putin, the Times of Israel report added. Rajoub told official PA news agency Wafa that Abbas would discuss "bilateral relations and latest political developments" with the Russian president, the report added.
According to observers, Putin's move to call the top leaders of two hostile entities is a step towards asserting Russia's diplomatic skills and influence in the volatile West Asia where the United States under the Donald Trump presidency has made a number of controversial moves there, including shifting its embassy to Israel to Jerusalem and recognising the controversial city as the capital of Israel.
The Times of Israel report said there was no indication that the two leaders would meet each other during their stay in Moscow although the Russian president had tried to hold talks between them earlier.
Putin had invited Netanyahu and Abbas for discussions in 2016 and both the leaders showed their willingness for a face-to-face meeting. But it did not eventually happen since both sides started accusing each other of not cooperating.
Netanyahu and Abbas haven't met each other since 2010 and the recent clashes at the border over Palestinian protests and the embassy fiasco have deteriorated the conditions further in one of the world's longest crises.
Neither Israel nor Palestine are playing the ongoing World Cup, however.
Israel have played in the football world cup only once - in the 1970 edition played in Mexico - in which they drew two games and lost won to get eliminated in the group stage. Palestine were not a member of the Fifa till 1998 and are yet to play in world cup.