Jordan: Talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials kick off

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  February 25, 2023

American and Egyptian representatives also set to attend as talks take place following escalating violence.

Israeli and Palestinian leadership began talks in Jordan on Sunday, following a deadly escalation in violence in the occupied West Bank.

The meeting is being held in the Red Sea resort town of Aqaba, according to Jordanian state broadcaster Al-Mamlaka. 

Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency head Ronen Bar were both set to attend, sources told AFP.

US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk is also expected to be present, as well as Jordanian and Egyptian security officials, the sources added.

The talks come after Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians, including a child and three elderly people, and wounded 100 others on Wednesday during a military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

More than 60 Israeli military vehicles stormed Nablus after an undercover force was spotted in the historic Old City, eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye.

“It was very scary… We could hear the sounds of explosions and people screaming in the street, and many of us started crying and praying to God to protect the city and its residents,” Nablus resident Nabeela Suliman told MEE.

The raid, which lasted for four hours, focused on a building in the city that reportedly housed Palestinian resistance fighters.

Israel’s military launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, after rockets were fired from the besieged Palestinian enclave following the Nablus raid.

At least 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis this year, at a rate of more than one fatality per day.

This follows a steep increase in violence in 2022 when at least 167 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest death toll in those territories in a single year since the Second Intifada.

Meanwhile, Palestinians killed 30 Israelis last year and 10 this year. 

United Nations experts have condemned Israel for the record levels of violence in 2022 and warned that an even higher number of casualties could be recorded this year. 

The US CIA director, William Burns, warned earlier this month that current tensions bear an “unhappy resemblance” to the Second Intifada and efforts to prevent “explosions of violence” are a challenge.

“The decision to take part in the Aqaba meeting despite the pain and massacres being endured by the Palestinian people comes from a desire to bring an end to the bloodshed,” the Fatah movement, which President Mahmoud Abbas belongs to, said on Twitter.


Jordan hosts Israel-Palestine talks as violence escalates

 Al-Jazeera February 26, 2023

 Jordanian official says the talks in Red Sea port of Aqaba is part of an effort to halt ‘a security breakdown that could fuel more violence’.

Jordan is hosting a meeting between top Israeli and Palestinian officials in a bid to halt a surge in deadly violence in the occupied West Bank that has stoked fears of a wider escalation, according to officials.

The meeting on Sunday is being held in the Red Sea port of Aqaba and will be attended by representatives from the United States and Egypt.

The planned talks come days after Israeli forces carried out a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus that killed 11 Palestinians. The death toll in Wednesday’s raid was the highest since the second Intifada of 2000-2005.

The intensifying violence has killed 62 Palestinian adults and children since the start of this year. Ten Israelis and a Ukrainian tourist have died in the same period. The United Nations meanwhile said last year was the deadliest period for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2006, with Israeli forces killing 171 Palestinians, including 30 children, in that period.

A Jordanian government official, speaking to the AFP news agency, said Sunday’s “political-security meeting is part of stepped-up ongoing efforts by Jordan in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and other parties to end unilateral measures [by Israel] and a security breakdown that could fuel more violence”.

The talks aim to agree on “security and economic measures to ease the hardships of the Palestinian people,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

The Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed Jordanian official as also saying that “such a meeting has not happened in years … It’s a major achievement to get them together.”

Sources with knowledge of the meeting said Palestinian Authority intelligence chief Majed Faraj and the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency Ronen Bar were set to be in attendance.

Earlier this month, Jordan’s King Abdullah met US President Joe Biden and held talks with his Middle East envoy Brett McGurk in which Washington — a staunch ally of Israel, Egypt and Jordan — warned of the threats to regional security and lobbied for a resumption of stalled talks on Palestinian statehood. McGurk is set to take part in Sunday’s meeting, according to officials.

King Abdullah also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jordan’s capital, Amman, in January.

The king stressed “the need to maintain calm and cease all acts of violence”, the royal palace said at the time.

Abdullah also reaffirmed Jordan’s position in support of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians to end the decades-old conflict.

Jordan has been concerned about stepped-up Jewish settlement building, and has accused Israel of trying to change the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites. Israel denies the allegation.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war, territories the Palestinians seek for an independent state.

Palestinian statehood talks have been stalled for almost a decade.

Palestinians react to Aqaba talks

The ruling Fatah movement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been ruling without decree since his original mandate expired in 2009, said the talks are aimed to halt the violence.

“The decision to take part in the Aqaba meeting despite the pain and massacres being endured by the Palestinian people comes from a desire to bring an end to the bloodshed,” Fatah said on Twitter.

However, the talks were not well received by many Palestinians, who view the US as a dishonest broker favouring the Israeli side.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, slammed the Palestinian Authority’s participation.

The meeting is “a blatant attempt to cover up ongoing (Israeli) occupation crimes, and a green light for it to carry out violations against our people and land and holy sites”, Hamas said in a statement.

In an interview with a local Palestinian agency, the mother of of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, one of the leaders of the armed resistance movement in Nablus who was killed last year, stressed that the settlement process had failed despite the passage of more than 30 years since its inception.

The Israeli occupation wants to “annihilate the Palestinian people,” Huda al-Nabulsi said, so “attempts to reach a settlement or peace have not succeeded and will not succeed”.

“The United States of America supports its spoiled son Israel with weapons, while claiming that it supports the Palestinians with money,” she added.

In Gaza, dozens of university students held a gathering to protest the Aqaba meeting and masked activists burned pictures of Israel’s far-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

“How would we accept these meetings which concede the rights of the Palestinian people and the right to resistance?” said Youssef Seyam, a university student.

Meanwhile, in the town of Huwara, south of Nablus which is still reeling from the deadly Wednesday raid, two Israeli settlers were shot dead by a Palestinian gunman who fled the scene.


Israel, Palestinian officials to meet over surge in violence

Josef Federman

AP  /  February 26, 2023

JERUSALEM – High-level Palestinian and Israeli delegations will meet in Jordan on Sunday, both sides said, in an attempt to reduce surging violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Still, bloodshed continued even as news of the meeting emerged. The Israeli military said there was a shooting in the northern occupied West Bank, which has seen skyrocketing tensions between Palestinian towns and Jewish settlements that the international community widely considers illegal. Israeli emergency rescue services said two people were seriously wounded and airlifted to hospital for treatment.

Israel said the prime minister’s national security adviser as well as the chief of the Shin Bet domestic security agency were to attend the talks in neighbouring Jordan. The head of the Palestinian intelligence services as well as advisers to President Mahmoud Abbas were expected to join.

The presence of top officials at the meeting, as well as delegations from Egypt, Jordan and the United States, underscored the severity of the crisis. It was also a rare high-level meeting between the sides, coming during a time of rising tensions and after the Palestinians cut security coordination with Israel over the violence.

Abbas’ office said the Palestinians would “stress the need to stop all Israeli unilateral actions.” An Israeli official said the meeting was meant to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan and came after an American request.

The meeting’s Palestinian attendees were confirmed by a Palestinian official. A Jordanian official also said the meeting was meant to stop “Israeli unilateral actions,” build confidence and lead to more comprehensive contacts between the sides. He said the meeting will take place in the Red Sea resort town of Aqaba, Jordan.

All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.

Palestinians who oppose any official engagement with Israel said they would protest the meeting, while the Islamic militant Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip criticized the meeting.

It’s not clear what the talks might achieve. Israel has pledged to continue fighting militants in the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority often has little control. Israel also is led by a far-right government with members that oppose concessions to the Palestinians and favour settlement construction on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians for a future state. Last week, Israeli officials approved the building of over 7,000 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, according to activist groups that attended the planning meeting.

Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has surged since Israel stepped up raids across the West Bank following a spate of Palestinian attacks last spring. The bloodshed has spiked this year, with more than 60 Palestinians killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed 11 people in 2023.

Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians say Israel is further entrenching its 55-year open-ended occupation of lands they want for a future state, as well as undermine their own security forces.

Ramadan this year coincides with the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover and worshippers from both faiths are expected to flock to the holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, which are often a flashpoint for violence between the sides.

Clashes erupted at a key Jerusalem holy site last year and tensions at the site helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in 2021.