Israel has rejected the U.S. administration’s proposal to host a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian national security advisers at the White House.
The proposed meeting was to have to focused on avenues for economic and security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians. The proposal was part of Washington’s recent efforts to shore up the Palestinian Authority, in light of the economic crisis iin which Ramallah is mired and the fear that Hamas will grow stronger in the West Bank.
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Under the American plan, the meeting would have been hosted by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Eyal Hulata, would represent Israel. The identity of the Palestinian representative hadn’t yet been settled. The heads of the Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence services, Abbas Kamel and Ahmad Husni, were also meant to participate.
But Israel recently informed the administration that it will not attend such a meeting.
Since the current government was established last year, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has taken the lead on contacts with the Palestinian leadership, with a focus on economic and security issues. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said repeatedly since taking office that he refuses to engage in diplomatic talks with the Palestinians or meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In his speech to the UN General Assembly last September, he didn’t even mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The proposal for the meeting was first reported by the Walla news site. According to Walla’s report, the idea of holding it at the level of national security advisers rather than more senior officials was meant to enable Bennett to claim that it wasn’t a diplomatic meeting.
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Senior Israeli officials have stressed in private conversations in recent weeks that the government is standing firm on its refusal to hold diplomatic talks with the Palestinians, because its constituent parties are too divided over this issue. Instead, it will continue focusing on economic and security issues.