US President Joe Biden has asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his cooperation as he looks to take advantage of the normalization agreements in the Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab countries to advance measures that benefit the Palestinians, a senior US administration official told The Times of Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has so far rejected requests to join multilateral initiatives that include Israel with its new Arab allies, arguing that the Ibrahim Accords are an attempt to bypass the Palestinian issue.
Abbas did not commit to changing his tune during his meeting with Biden in Bethlehem earlier this month, where the request was made, and his office has not yet made a return to the White House on whether he would be willing to join senior US officials. Thursday official said.
We have made it clear that normalization and implementation of the Abraham Agreements are taking place. “This is a trend, and for the Palestinians to try to stand against it is not in anyone’s interest,” said a second senior US official. “We have found that Arab capitals strongly support the involvement of Palestinians in the efforts of the Abraham Accords, and increasingly so do the Israelis.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid agreed at the March Negev Summit with Arab states that each of the six working groups established by member states – on national security, education, health, energy, food security, and tourism – should advance actions to strengthen the Palestinians in their respective areas of focus.
However, the idea was proposed after Lapid rejected a request from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to create an additional working group to advance the Palestinian cause, two Middle East diplomats He said in time.
However, one of the first fruits of the American effort was announced during Biden’s trip. The package of steps the United States said Israel would present to the Palestinians included a plan to keep the Allenby crossing between the West Bank and Jordan open 24/7 by September 30.
Later, the Israeli Ministry of Transport issued a statement acknowledging that the initiative came as a result of cooperation with Morocco. Moroccan Transport Minister Mohamed Abdeljalil floated the idea when he met his Israeli counterpart Merav Michaeli on the sidelines of the International Transport Forum in Germany in May.
Michaeli agreed to move forward with the case and a phone call was subsequently made between US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in order to proceed with the matter.
The second senior administration official said that in the weeks leading up to the trip, Israeli Defense Ministry officials had begun to express reservations, adding that US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides had been instrumental in getting the announcement to the finish line. The official said Jordan also played a role in the negotiations.
Contrary to the White House announcement, Michaeli’s statement regarding Allenby did not include a deadline for the 24/7 start of the crossing. A spokesperson for the minister said the timing will depend on when the office is able to secure enough staff to keep the bridge open around the clock.
A Palestinian official familiar with the matter said that Ramallah is under the impression that the September 30 deadline is unrealistic and that there is wide skepticism about whether this or any of the other measures revealed by the United States will be implemented, given that many of the initiatives have been announced before Israel before.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed His support for the Biden administration’s efforts to take advantage of the Abraham Accords to advance peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I think we can take advantage of the Ibrahim agreements and relationships with regional partners in order to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and enhance confidence-building measures,” he said during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum.
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