Photo/IllutrationYoung Palestinian men throw stones at Israeli security forces in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 21. (Takashi Watanabe)

Hoping to broker peace in the Middle East, Tokyo is mulling an initiative to hold four-way talks in Japan by year-end with leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

The effort is meant to contribute to confidence building toward the Middle East peace process, through Japan’s economic assistance to Palestinians, government sources said. Tokyo maintains friendly ties with the three parties.

But it is unclear whether such a conference will actually take place as Israel-Palestinian tensions could heighten further following a shootout near a holy site in Jerusalem earlier this month.

The four-party consultative unit is part of the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity,” a vision then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi laid out in July 2006 to help the Palestinian Authority’s economy.

During Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's first stint in power, the unit’s first meeting was held in March 2007. Participants were Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Israel Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Sa’eb Erekat, who is the head of the Negotiations Affairs of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Farouk Kasrawi, special adviser of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Gatherings under that framework continued, and Tokyo intends to underscore its record as a promoter of the peace process by hosting another four-party conference in Japan.

Although succeeding U.S. administrations have sought many times to broker peace talks, the efforts were not successful.

Japanese government officials are hoping that Japan’s endeavor to help the peace process will also lead to stronger ties with President Donald Trump’s administration.

Israeli-Palestinian relations took an additional hit on July 14 when a deadly shootout occurred near one of Jerusalem’s most holy sites for both Muslims and Jews.

Israeli authorities installed security equipment at the entrance of the holy site, including metal detectors, in the wake of the shootout between Israel policemen and the gunmen who are Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin.

That ignited violence and strong protests from Muslims, leaving a number of people on both sides dead.

The Israeli government removed the security equipment by July 27, but the situation in Jerusalem remains charged.

(This article was written by Nozomi Matsui in Tokyo and Takashi Watanabe in Jerusalem.)