Abbas to meet Egyptian, Jordanian counterparts to form unified stance on Israel

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for a meeting on Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, as the three aim to prepare and coordinate their stance on Israel ahead of the UN General Assembly slated to take place later this month.

Senior Palestinian Authority officials said the plan is to present the United States with a Palestinian position on future contact with Israel that is backed by Egypt and Jordan.

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The PA leadership admits, however, that it does not expect the United States to pressure Israel at this stage with respect to the Palestinian issue.

Jordan's King Abdullah II in July. Credit: Louiza Vradi / Reuters

“The Americans have conveyed that there is no intention to exert pressure or initiate any move that could create obstacles for the Israeli government on the eve of the passage of the budget,” said one source in the Palestinian leadership. Nevertheless, senior PA officials said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's renouncement of the diplomatic process does not mean that it is impossible to advance confidence-building economic moves with the U.S. administration, with Egyptian and Jordanian involvement.

The working assumption at the political level in Ramallah is that U.S. President Joe Biden's administration sees the Palestinian-Israeli arena as an important field in which progress may be made, however limited. According to these sources, one of the issues at stake is obtaining increased economic support for the PA from Arab states, with an emphasis on the Persian Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia.

A senior PA official explained that the Trump administration had put massive pressure on Arab states to stop direct economic aid to the PA as long as it rejected the Deal of the Century. According to him, although that pressure fell away when the administration changed hands, Washington has not yet sent a clear message to these countries asking them to support the PA again. Now, they are trying to promote a new concept: it is not only asking the United States to ask Arab countries to support the Palestinian Authority, but to make it clear to them that ties with Washington will depend on stabilizing the Palestinian Authority.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, last month. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

At the same time, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah rejects the criticism lobbed at it by Hamas and other Palestinian circles regarding this week’s meeting between Abbas and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The PA asserts that the agreed upon concessions, including the unification of Palestinian families and the receipt of a 500 million shekels ($156 million) loan, was not tantamount to a cession of the PA's diplomatic position. According to senior PA officials, these are confidence-building measures following a years-long diplomatic rift. Israel, for its part, clarified that the loan will be repaid from future tax revenues collected by Israel on the Palestinians’ behalf.

During a PLO Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday, Abbas addressed the demands he’d made of Gantz. He said he had reiterated the Palestinian position that existing agreements, the two-state solution and the Arab peace initiative should be respected. He also said he’d made concrete demands at the meeting, including with respect to the release of longtime Palestinian prisoners, the return of Palestinian bodies held in Israel, the cessation of settlement construction and the curtailment of settler aggression. Abbas didn’t clarify whether Gantz had agreed to his demands.

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