02/11/2017

Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj on Friday returned to Ramallah from Washington where he met with senior US security and intelligence officials, according to Palestinian sources.

According to Haaretz, Faraj already met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and relayed messages of assurances he received during the meetings, which helped alleviate some concerns within the Palestinian leadership regarding US on the two-state solution, Israeli settlements and a possible move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Palestinians have previously raised concerns of being “sidelined” by the US president, who has adopted an outwardly favorable stance towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinians view the meeting between Faraj and the American officials as the first attempt to break the ice after an initial period of uncertainty following the election of President Donald Trump.

Trump has previously expressed support for both the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and for the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, both actions of which have been sharply condemned by the international community and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, as well as viewed by the Palestinians as a move that would severely hinder any potential for a two-state solution.

The Palestinian government believes that pressure levied against Trump from various sources including Jordanian King Abdullah II and Saudi King Salman has had some effect on the new administration’s views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinian leadership is now waiting to for the outcome of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit with Trump next week in Washington.

Before Trump’s inauguration. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas urged in a letter to Trump not to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, asserting that it would have a “disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution and on the stability and security of the entire region.”

Abbas also sent letters to other world powers including Russia, China and the European Union, calling on them to “spare no effort” to prevent the United States from making the move, Wafa said.

The Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its undivided capital.

The United States and most UN member states do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the city’s status is one of the thorniest issues of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed media reports allege that US officials sent a clear message to Abbas through the American consulate in Jerusalem that if the PA follows through on its threat to accuse Israel of war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the US will retaliate with measures against the PLO.

Such measures would include shuttering the PLO office in Washington, DC, freezing all financial assistance to the PA, and adding the PLO to a list of terrorist groups.

Behind the scenes, the Palestinian Authority is rumored to be privately complaining that the Trump administration has ignored it entirely. One senior PA official reportedly said there is no sign that Trump will be an “honest broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that while the president has scheduled a meeting with Israel’s prime minister, he made no efforts to communicate with Abbas.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders are still hoping that European action, particularly from France, will lead to a political process and possibly official recognition of a Palestinian state.

I24