A few weeks before the US Embassy’s grand opening in Jerusalem, the newly appointed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, held a meeting with Majid Faraj, head of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security and intelligence services, amid the PA’s boycott of the Trump administration for his Jerusalem speech, Haaretz has reported.
According to the media outlet, citing a Palestinian official, the secret meeting was held in Washington between “official security ranks,” stressing that it took place shortly before Pompeo was sworn in as Secretary of State.
While the talks come as a surprise since the Palestinian Authority had decided to boycott the Trump administration after the president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the same source told Haaretz that the two parties are proceeding with all-encompassing security negotiations.
The United States is expected to present its vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord at the end of June after several delays. According to the media outlet, the White House will try to synchronize the presentation of what the US president has famously called the “ultimate deal” with a plan for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Majid Faraj’s talks with Pompeo last month are viewed as part of close ties between the two, which reportedly evolved after Faraj helped arrange a visit for the former CIA chief to the Palestinian city of Ramallah last winter.
As the official explained to Haaretz, both Washington and Tel Aviv are looking at the Palestinian issue from a national security perspective, therefore it was essential for Faraj, who’s considered to be close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to meet Pompeo before his swearing-in as Secretary of State.
The meeting between the two intelligence chiefs took place at a time when the Palestinian president was hospitalized, and his health was in the limelight in both the US and the Middle East, which, according to Haaretz, could mean Washington’s trying to guarantee stability on the Palestinian side after Abbas exits the political scene.
Before Abbas was released from the hospital, his advisor on foreign affairs and international relations Nabil Shaath told the Arabic-language website Donia Al Watan that the Palestinian president had plans to issue a number of decrees.
“Important decisions will be made after President Abbas is discharged from the hospital, the most crucial of which will be national unity and intra-Palestinian issues. In particular, the decrees will address a number of political aspects, relations with Israel and the United States, as well as international activities of the Palestinian authorities. They will touch upon the reconciliation and the situation in the Gaza Strip, the ongoing crises, including the problem of paying salaries to civil servants,” he said.
As for Israel’s proposals to improve the situation in Gaza, during a conference the Trump administration held in Washington, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai laid out a list of projects, aimed at upgrading infrastructure in the area, partly in northern Sinai on the Egyptian side of the border.
According to Israeli media reports, the plans envisage building an industrial zone, desalination plants, a power station and plants for construction materials in the Sinai Peninsula. The media outlet went on to say that previously Israel had insisted on Hamas’ full disarmament in exchange for rehabilitation of Gaza, but now it might as well soften its stance, meaning that Hamas could stop rocket attacks against Israel in exchange for “gradual rehabilitation of the Strip.”
Since March 30, Israeli-Palestinian relations have been going through a new wave of crisis, as Palestinian protesters took to the streets along the border in Gaza for the Great March of Return, claiming refugees’ right to return to their homeland. The rallies have consistently turned violent, with Palestinian medics reporting that at least 115 protesters have been killed and 13,300 more have been injured.
In the wake of the US Embassy’s opening in Jerusalem on May 14, more than 60 Palestinians were killed and over 2,700 wounded in clashes. President Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 was harshly criticized by most Muslim countries, as well as nations, supporting a two-state solution.
The IDF earlier claimed that a “barrage of 25 mortar shells” had been launched at a number of targets in Israel from the Gaza Strip, with the military intercepting some of them.