Palestinian concerns that presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney could defeat US President Barack Obama in the November 6 presidential election could be utilized to return the Palestinians to the negotiating table, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder suggested in an interview in Jerusalem.

Lauder, who is close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has been pushing for the Palestinians to resume negotiations, which they abandoned when they did not accept an offer made by former prime minister Ehud Olmert in August 2008. Lauder urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the table in an advertisement he took out in The Wall Street Journal two weeks ago on the three-year anniversary of Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech, in which the prime minister endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state.

“The election in November between President Obama and Mitt Romney could have important consequences for the peace process,” Lauder told The Jerusalem Post. “I believe that the uncertainty over who will win the election could and perhaps should convince the Palestinians that it would be in their own best interest to restart the peace process as soon as possible.”

Lauder noted that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had fallen off the international agenda, due to the increasing focus on other problems in the Middle East, such as preventing the nuclearization of Iran, the Syrian civil war and the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt. He said the Palestinian issue can become a top priority again if the PA agrees to restart negotiations without preconditions.



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“There has never been a better time to make a peace treaty between the two peoples,” said Lauder, who recently met with Abbas in London. “If both sides can sit down, I think a deal could be made quickly. I fear that unless something happens to restart negotiations in the next several months, it could lead to another Palestinian intifada.”

Lauder said he was optimistic due to the widening of the coalition and the addition of the Kadima party to the government. Kadima’s leader, Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, is expected to meet with Abbas on Sunday.

“The widening of the coalition helps dramatically,” Lauder said.

“With 94 seats in the coalition, if there was a deal done, I think it would pass.”

Asked why he thought the Palestinians would make a deal now after rejecting Olmert’s offer of 100 percent of the West Bank with land swaps, taking in thousands of Palestinian refugees and dividing and internationalizing Jerusalem, Lauder said that sometimes people refuse an offer for their house and later end up accepting a lower offer later on.

“Sometimes a good offer made at the wrong time does not go as well as a not as good offer made at the right time,” he said.

The World Jewish Congress, which is the representative body of Jewish communities and organizations in nearly 100 countries, has been instrumental in building a Jewish history museum in Moscow that visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin invited President Shimon Peres to inaugurate on November 4. Praising Putin for the decrease in anti-Semitism in Russia, Lauder said the Russian leader has been a strong advocate for Russian Jewry.

Lauder sat next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at Monday night’s reception for Putin at the President’s Residence. He said Lavrov understands the dangers of the Middle East getting taken over by Islamic fundamentalism.

“They are taking a much more cautious approach to what is going on in the Middle East and looking at the consequences of what happens,” he said.

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