In a meeting of 14 foreign ministers in Cairo, the Arab League has approved "indirect negotiations" between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The indirectness of the talks will be due to American mediation, an element proposed by the United States. According to a report by The New York Times, Arab League approval will politically enable PA President Hamoud Abbas to agree to resume talks with Israel.
Up until now, Abbas has refused any discussion with the Jewish state until Israel ceases to build in any Jewish communities in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu imposed a 10 month building restriction on Jewish residents in those areas, but the PA was not satisfied, because the cessation did not include construction which had already begun, or that which takes place in eastern Jerusalem.
According to the present initiative, the US will engage in shuttle diplomacy between the parties until Israel meets the Arab demands in their entirety, at which point Abbas will be allowed to agree to direct talks with Israel.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa of Egypt said that the League agreed to talks "despite the lack of conviction in the seriousness of the Israeli side… to facilitate the U.S. role.'' Representatives of Syria and of the Hamas terror organization rejected the Wednesday decision.
The League limited the talks to a preliminary four-month period.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the Arab League's decision, and was quoted by The New York Times as responding: "In the Middle East you need two to tango, but it could be that we need three to tango… but the obstacle isn't and never was Israel."
The Prime Minister's spokesman, Mark Regev, was quoted by Reuters as adding "Prime Minister Netanyahu has been calling for the resumption of talks for some time, and we hope now that the talks can move forward."
The Arab League is comprised of 22 member countries and four observers. Member countries are Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Somalia, Libya, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Mauritania, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Djibouti, Bahrain, and Comoros, as well as 'Palestine', which is not legally recognized as a country. Observers are Venezuela, Brazil, Eritrea, and India. As of 2007, the Arab League is believed to represent countries with a total population of approximately 340 million people, at least 88% of whom are Muslim.