Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday, 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.
During the tripartite meeting, Jordan's King Abdullah said that his country would continue protecting the status quo in Jerusalem and at Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the Temple Mount. He added that Jordan would safeguard Muslim and Christian holy sites there.
"The meeting today emphasizes Jordan's interest in supporting every Palestinian measure, in order to renew the peace process based on international agreements and the two-state solution," he said, "The current situation cannot continue, and there will not be stability in the region until the two-state solution is achieved."
The Egyptian president's spokesperson said that during the meeting, Sissi reiterated Egypt's support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but that that day would not come until the factions in Palestinian society reconcile. He also discussed the importance of efforts to resume negotiations with the Israelis and calming tensions in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas said that Israel is continuing its daily violations in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, mainly through settler aggression. According to the Palestinian president, the Israeli occupation has become a monstrous reality, and is implementing a program that is based on apartheid.
He went on to say that the Palestinians have never turned their backs on international initiatives and efforts for peace. They are once again, he said, preparing the ground and taking confidence-building measures in order to achieve calm in the Palestinian territories. "We are extending a hand for sustainable peace and justice in accordance with decisions by the international community and the Quartet. We welcome the involvement of Egypt and Jordan and their mobilization to end the occupation," Abbas said.
Regarding the discord among Palestinian factions, Abbas said that all of the groups must recognize the international community's decisions, and that it would lay the groundwork of for a unity government that would help rebuild the Gaza Strip and advance presidential and parliamentary elections.
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This position has been met with harsh criticism by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, who claim that this demand is conditioned on recognizing Israel and the past agreements signed with it, including the Oslo Accords, which the militant groups will not accept.
Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections were slated for this spring, and were to be the first such elections in the Palestinian territories in 15 years. Three months after the vote was announced, Abbas postponed the elections indefinitely, citing Israel's disagreement with putting up polling stations in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government did not officially say whether it would allow votes to be held there, but Palestinian political sources said that Abbas was interested in the postponement due to concern that his Fatah party would not secure the electoral victory that it is seeking.
Ahead of the meeting, 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.
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.
“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 say 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 says 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 will be 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.
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 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.