A senior official in Ramallah revealed to Israeli daily Israel Hayom on Monday that the Palestinian Authority and Washington have been exchanging messages in an effort to smooth things over and end the PA boycott against the US administration.
According to the official, a senior delegation led by the head of the PA General Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj, is expected to fly to Washington in the near future to hold talks with White House officials. Representatives of Abbas and Trump recently engaged in secret talks to hash out the details of the meeting, said the official.
“These discussions are strictly feelers, although both sides have shown a positive approach and made progress toward possibly renewing relations,” said the official.
According to the official, one of the reasons for the PA’s change in course is its dissatisfaction over the US-sponsored economic summit in Bahrain in June, which was attended by Arab states despite pleas from Abbas to boycott it. According to the official, Ramallah viewed their participation as “a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.”
Another reason, said the official, is that Ramallah expects the diplomatic portion of the American peace plan to be unveiled following the upcoming Israeli election (set for Sept. 17), and the Palestinians want to have stabilized their relationship with Trump and his envoys by then.
The PA’s poor economic situation and Ramallah’s interest in renewing financial aid, as well as the PA’s assessment that Trump is likely to be re-elected in 2020, are also possible factors.
A Palestinian news report on Monday quoted U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt as saying that Trump could introduce the political portion of his peace plan before the Israeli election.
Greenblatt’s extensive interview with Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam — not an inconsequential event considering the PA’s belief that the American administration is biased toward Israel — can be seen as further proof that Washington-Ramallah relations are thawing.
“Greenblatt and [US Ambassador to Israel David] Friedman are personae non grata in the Palestinian Authority and the interview with Greenblatt is intended to soften the Palestinian public’s position before returning to the path of discourse and accepting the Trump administration as a mediator between it and Israel,” the PA official said.
In the Al-Ayyam interview, Greenblatt said: “President Trump hasn’t made a decision yet on when to publish the full peace plan. He is weighing the options in accordance with the Israeli election and the decision will be made shortly.”
Trump and his administration are aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of the regional peace plan, Greenblatt added, but are determined to move forward.
“We weren’t surprised by the difficulties the peace plan entails and that there are those who don’t accept it. Anyone who doesn’t understand that, doesn’t understand the essence of the conflict. With that, all sides need to understand that it’s not possible to present a perfect plan. We need to sit together and discuss the issues and obstacles, in negotiations, so that we can reach an agreement,” he said.
“If we don’t reach a point where everyone is sitting in one room and talking, as was the case when the Palestinians boycotted the Bahrain conference, nothing will happen and it won’t be the first time a peace process has failed,” Greenblatt stressed. “The thought that Washington, Europe or the United Nations has some sort of magic formula to resolve the conflict is incorrect, and therefore, we must all sit down in the same room and talk.”
Greenblatt didn’t spare the PA leadership any criticism during the interview, telling the Ramallah-based newspaper that “the Palestinians leadership needs to internalize that the [Bahrain] summit’s success proves there are those who believe in peace and in the Palestinian people’s ability to create a good and flourishing economy with the help of numerous investors. This is an opportunity the Palestinian leadership can’t afford to miss.”
With that, Greenblatt insisted that the Trump administration has no intention of “forcing its positions on Ramallah or buying the Palestinians with money. If there is a peace deal, the Palestinians will have a dream economy, because we believe that without a serious economic plan that includes investments and initiatives, a successful peace plan isn’t feasible.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.