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Palestinians Ready to Play Ball

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Palestinian leaders want Israel to relinquish control over small parts of the West Bank and tear down some illegal Israeli communities there as part of any US-brokered deal establishing diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, said Saudi and Palestinian officials – far short of demands they have publicly made in the past.

The requests signal a shift for Palestinian leaders, who accused the United Arab Emirates of stabbing them in the back in 2020 when the Gulf nation secretly ­negotiated a US-brokered deal to formally establish diplomatic ­relations with Israel. That agreement paved the way for Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan to follow suit, creating momentum for ­Israeli efforts to establish diplomatic ties with more Arab and Muslim nations.

S President Joe Biden is making a push to open up diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, an agreement that would send a message to other Arab and Muslim nations that their decades of shunning Israel should come to an official end.

The complicated discussions face huge hurdles but securing Palestinian support would give any deal added legitimacy.

Saudi Arabia has been a longtime financial and political supporter of Palestinian efforts to create an independent nation alongside Israel, but it cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority in 2021 amid persistent concerns about incompetence and corruption.

In talks with Palestinian leaders, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered to resume funding to the PA if it cracks down on militant groups in the West Bank – a move that would help demonstrate that it could govern an independent state. While the Saudi proposal wasn’t explicitly tied to Palestinian support for a Saudi-Israel diplomatic deal, the offer provides Palestinians with more incentives to back the kingdom’s efforts. The PA has begun trying to reassert control in cities like Jenin, where militant groups had taken effective control, making it a target of frequent Israeli military raids.

In recent months, PA emissaries have provided US and Saudi officials with specific ideas on what steps they would like to see as part of any Israel-Saudi agreement, the officials said. Those include calls on Israel to give the PA more control over some parts of the West Bank and a push to ­demolish illegal Israeli outposts often established without Israeli government permission by hard-line Jewish settlers.

In their recent talks, Mohammed assured Mr Abbas that he wouldn’t bend in his support for the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative. In that 2002 proposal, the Arab League agreed to establish open ties with Israel only when it allowed the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

With the Gaza Strip run by the rival Palestinian group Hamas, a US-designated terrorist group, and East Jerusalem annexed by Israel, meeting that bar right now appears unattainable. That makes it unlikely Mohammed would hold firm to such an expansive demand if he hopes to secure a deal with Israel soon. Saudi leaders have told US officials that they expect Palestinians to accept concessions short of statehood and they won’t have any power to veto a Saudi-Israel deal.

Palestinians are now pressing the Biden administration to follow through on its pledge to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which was closed by the Trump administration in 2019, and for the US to back full Palestinian representation at the UN.

A Palestinian delegation is expected to head to Saudi Arabia next week for more discussions on the issues, the officials said.

Article link:
Article source: The Australian / Wall Street Journal | Dion Nissenbaum & Summer Said | 2.9.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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