Shortly after the Palestinian Authority announced Saturday that they had set a date for their U.N. bid, declaring Sept. 20 the day they will officially petition the organization for statehood, a Palestinian official told AFP that President Shimon Peres had recently held four meetings with President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.
The AFP report said the two had been scheduled to hold a fifth meeting in Amman two weeks ago, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to let Peres leave for Jordan and the meeting was subsequently called off.
There is speculation that the meetings were a last ditch effort to jump-start negotiations between the two sides just as the Palestinians were deciding whether to move forward with their bid, a move that has the potential to set off a crisis.
Two months ago, Army Radio first reported that Peres and Abbas had opened a secret channel of communication. When asked in July about the existence of possible talks, Peres was evasive. "I aim to achieve dialogue through any means possible," he said. "I don't want to hint at anything, because I don't think that such a dialogue needs to be in the newspapers. Efforts are taking place to overcome our difficulties, and I am taking part in these efforts," Peres said. Peres also expressed optimism that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement could be reached before the September bid.