Israel rejects US proposal for meeting with Palestinian national security advisers

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  April 8, 2022

US plan was to allow Bennett to claim the meeting was not a diplomatic one, meaning he wouldn’t have to renege on his promise not to hold negotiations, Haaretz reports.

Israel rejected the Biden administration’s proposal to host a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian national security advisers at the White House, Haaretz reported.

The proposed meeting was to have to focused on economic and security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians and was part of Washington’s efforts to shore up the Palestinian Authority amid the severe economic challenges facing Ramallah and concerns Hamas will grow stronger in the West Bank.

US national security advisor Jake Sullivan was set to host the meeting, with the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Eyal Hulata, representing Israel.

The identity of the Palestinian representative had not yet been settled. The heads of the Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence services, Abbas Kamel and Ahmad Husni, were also meant to attend.

According to Walla News, which first reported the meeting, the idea of holding it at the level of national security advisers rather than more senior officials was meant to enable Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to claim that it wasn’t a diplomatic meeting.

Since taking office Bennett has refused 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 did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s decision to forgo such a meeting comes amid heightened tensions in the country and the occupied West Bank.

On Thursday, three people were killed and several wounded in a shooting in the centre of Tel Aviv. The incident was the latest in a string of recent attacks across Israel. 

The Israeli army and police have raised alert levels in the country to the highest level since May last year, with thousands of troops and officers deployed across Israel and along the separation fences with the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

Six Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since the Tel Aviv attack, including one who was shot by a Jewish settler. 

There have been growing fears that tensions could spike further when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with the Jewish Passover holidays later this month.

Jewish settlers and far-right activists have announced plans to storm al-Aqsa Mosque during the Jewish holidays to perform religious rituals inside the site.

Tensions have been running high in recent weeks in the run-up to the first anniversary of Israel’s 11-day offensive on Gaza.

Violence spiked last Ramadan when Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel, triggering Israel’s large-scale military operation on the besieged Gaza Strip in May 2021. 

According to Axios, US officials have been working to maintain calm in Jerusalem ahead of the anniversary of the conflict where more than 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed in Gaza; 26 Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank; two Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli gunfire: and 13 people were killed in Israel by rocket fire from armed groups in Gaza.