Despite Diplomatic Boycott, Palestinian Intel Chief Held Rare Meeting With Mike Pompeo in Washington

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, May 23, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, May 23, 2018.Credit: Bloomberg

A rare meeting between American and Palestinian officials took place last month in Washington when Mike Pompeo, the recently appointed U.S. secretary of state, sat down with Majid Faraj, the head of the Palestinian Authority's security and intelligence services. 

The meeting took place shortly before Pompeo was sworn in, while he was still the head of the CIA. It was the most high-ranking meeting between Palestinian and American representatives in months, ever since the PA decided to boycott the Trump administration over the U.S. president’s Jerusalem speech.

A Palestinian official told Haaretz that the meeting was held between "official security ranks," emphasizing that it took place before Pompeo took on a political and diplomatic role at the U.S. State Department. The same official said that despite the Palestinian boycott of the Trump administration, security talks between the two sides continue to take place and focus on a wide-range of regional issues – not just a potential future Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

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The Trump administration is expected to unveil its plan for reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement at the end of June. It is likely that Washington will try to synchronize presenting “the ultimate deal,” as U.S. President Donald Trump calls it, with presenting a plan for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Faraj’s talk with Pompeo, according to Palestinian officials, touched among other things on a meeting of the Palestinian National Council that took place in Ramallah a few days after Faraj visited Washington.

Faraj is considered one of the people closest to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His meeting with Pompeo is part of a close relationship between the two intelligence chiefs, which began last winter when Faraj helped arrange a visit for Pompeo in Ramallah. A Palestinian official told Haaretz that the U.S. and Israel are looking at the Palestinian issue from national security standpoints, which is why it was important for Faraj to meet Pompeo before the council’s convention and Pomeo’s promotion to the State Department. 

Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj whispers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in Ramallah, West Bank, April 1, 2014.Credit: AFP

The meeting with Pompeo also took place at a time when interest in Abbas’ health was growing in both the U.S. and the Middle East. It could signal an American attempt to ensure stability and governance on the Palestinian side in the days after Abbas. 

Pompeo, unlike his predecessor Rex Tillerson, signaled from his early days in the State Department that he seeks deep involvement in Mideast affairs. His first foreign trip as Secretary of State included stops in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and while the focus of the trip was the Iranian issue, Pompeo also discussed an Israeli-Palestinian peace process with the leaders he met. Pompeo stated that the Trump administration remains committed to reaching a peace agreement that would be beneficial to both sides. 

Despite the Palestinian leadership's frustration and disappointment with the Trump administration’s peace team, led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, some Palestinian officials – including Faraj – see value in continuing coordination with other parts of the U.S. government, especially the intelligence and security agencies. 

The State Department did not respond to this story by the time of its publication.