Palestinians Say U.S. Rejecting Calls for Talks Due to Israel’s Political Crisis

The U.S. acts 'as if only Israel has a government and public opinion that has to be considered,' a Palestinian official says

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Mahmoud Abbas, Joe Biden and Naftali Bennett: No chance for a diplomatic breakthrough.
Mahmoud Abbas, Joe Biden and Naftali Bennett: No chance for a diplomatic breakthrough.Credit: Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AP, Nicolas Datiche/Reuters, Emil Salman

The American delegation visiting Israel to prepare for U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit in July rejected Palestinian calls for peace negotiations, claiming that the political situation in Israel is too sensitive, according to senior Palestinian officials.

The officials and diplomats said that all Palestinian appeals to the United States to move forward with a diplomatic process had thus far been met with claims that the political situation in Israel is too fragile for talks to resume.

“They talk as if only Israel has a government and public opinion that has to be considered,” said one source. “What about Palestinian public opinion and what about the aggression against Palestinians?”

The U.S. did raise the possibility of holding a meeting similar to the Negev Summit last March, but Palestinian officials and Western diplomats told Haaretz that Palestinians rejected the idea of such a summit – unless it is proceeded with a declaration by all parties committing to advancing a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

Leaders pose for a photo at the Negev Summit in southern Israel, March.Credit: Tsafrir Abayov /AP

The U.S. proposal was not specific in nature. Details such as what level officials would participate in the summit were not included.

Hussein al-Shiekh, the secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee said in a meeting with Barbara Leaf, an aide to the U.S. secretary of state and Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, that the Palestinians demand a clear horizon for the summit rather than just general declarations.

Israel has also rejected the U.S. proposal for a summit with the Palestinian Authority. Israeli leaders told the American delegation that it was a bad idea, and that such a move would be viewed as the start of a diplomatic process that has no chance of succeeding – adding that Israel doesn't need an intermediary to speak with the Palestinians and that the two sides are in regular contact.

Palestinian officials also reportedly presented the U.S. delegation with a list of demands unrelated to the Israeli government – including the re-opening of the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, which serves mainly Palestinians; dropping the Palestine Liberation Organization from America’s list of terror groups; and restoration of economic aid by the U.S. and Gulf powers that was frozen during the Trump administration.

“These are decisions that the United States can make unilaterally and don’t require hollow summit meetings to be advanced,” said one Palestinian official. “They can be advanced with the [U.S.] government, which may be different from the Trump administration in terms of terminology – but as far as we can see hasn’t made any political changes.”

Officials in Ramallah said that Biden's visit to Israel would be mainly symbolic – and that the main focus of his trip to the region is his planned visit to Saudi Arabia. Palestinian officials are checking whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could attend the planned summit in Riyadh alongside other Arab leaders.

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