WASHINGTON — The Palestinian Authority is seeking to take “irreversible” steps that would bolster its push for statehood in the context of negotiations for a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a US official, a Palestinian official and a senior Arab diplomat told The Times of Israel. .
Proposed steps included US support for recognition of the Palestinian state at the United Nations, reopening its consulate in Jerusalem that has historically served the Palestinians, rescinding congressional legislation that labels the Palestinian Authority a terrorist organization, and transferring West Bank territory from Israel. For Palestinian control and the demolition of illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank.
The three officials distinguished these types of measures from others proposed in the past that Ramallah deems reversible, such as Israel’s temporary settlement freeze, Israel’s return to peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, or Israel’s expansion of the number of work permits it grants to Palestinians. .
The officials said the irreversible steps were part of a list that the PA handed to both the United States and Saudi Arabia, adding that the measures will be discussed further during PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh’s visit to Riyadh next week. .
Al-Sheikh discussed the measures with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf during a meeting on Sunday, and received a largely cold response, according to a Palestinian official.
Biden officials have opposed the Palestinian proposals regarding the United States, pointing to legislation in Congress that would require the United States to end all funding to the United Nations if the Palestinians are granted full membership status.
As for the consulate in Jerusalem — which served as a de facto mission for the Palestinians before former President Donald Trump closed it in 2019 — US officials judged that some degree of Israeli approval was needed and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government refused. Entertain the idea.
And rescinding the 1987 legislation declaring the Palestine Liberation Organization and its affiliates terrorist organizations was not a start for a Biden administration given the political fallout in an ever-divided Washington.
Instead, the United States has encouraged the Palestinian Authority to manipulate its demands and direct them toward Israel instead, highlighting the idea of transferring Area C lands from the West Bank, which are under Israeli control, to Area B or Area A where they enjoy The Palestinian Authority has more power. The Palestinian official said that this is more achievable.
On the other hand, the current Israeli government has intensified demolitions of Palestinian construction in Area C in what it describes as a “battle” over the area, so ceding the same land to the Palestinian Authority is likely to face massive resistance from the far-right to Netanyahu. Alliance partners.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Monday that Israel “will not make any concessions to the Palestinians. It is a fantasy.”
The Palestinian official who spoke to The Times of Israel expressed frustration with the US reaction to the Ramallah proposals.
“They are ready to discuss important gestures for Saudi Arabia, but all they say to our proposals is that this is not possible.”
Indeed, senior Biden officials have been said to be weighing lofty Saudi demands for normalization with Israel, such as a NATO-like mutual security treaty that would obligate the United States to defend Riyadh if the latter were attacked; the US-supported civilian nuclear program in Saudi Arabia; and allowing the Gulf kingdom to purchase more advanced weaponry from Washington.
A separate Palestinian source familiar with the matter indicated that the PA remains careful not to describe its list as “demands” to avoid being seen as directly complicit in a potential normalization deal.
The source explained that Ramallah has changed its approach towards potential normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and is no longer boycotting the process completely or publicly condemning countries that establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
Instead, the Palestinian Authority seeks to influence the process by separating its various bilateral relations with countries such as Saudi Arabia from the normalization file, with the aim of strengthening them in the process.
In this context, Riyadh is said to have offered to renew its assistance to the Palestinian Authority, in a possible attempt to convince Ramallah to support normalization efforts with Israel.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in April that Riyadh was ready to resume the aid package. Aid has been completely frozen since 2016 amid allegations of corruption in the Palestinian Authority and the refusal to hold presidential elections since 2005.
The Palestinian official said the Palestinian Authority had also asked Saudi Arabia to establish a consulate for it in East Jerusalem. Riyadh agreed to meet Ramallah halfway, and appointed its ambassador to Jordan as a non-resident ambassador to Palestine and consul general in Jerusalem earlier this month.
The Palestinian official said it is worth noting that this step was not coordinated with the Biden administration.