With a political solution deferred, US sets up 'security team' to liaise between PA and Israel
A US security team is in Jerusalem to liaise between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on security matters and do on-the-ground monitoring to defuse tensions between the two sides, according to Palestinian officials.
This follows statements by US secretary of state Antony Blinken in which he said, "...restoring calm is our immediate task." Blinken, accompanied by the special representative to the Palestinian Authority, Hady Amr, and a high-level delegation concluded a two-day visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
"We believe it's important to take steps to de-escalate, to stop the violence, to reduce tensions, and to try as well to create the foundation for more positive actions going forward," Blinken said in a statement following a meeting president Abbas in Ramallah Tuesday afternoon.
Today, Wednesday, I received the #US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs, Mrs. Barbara Leaf @SafiraLeaf, and her deputy, Mr. Hady Amr @HadyAmr , and Ms Kim Harrington from the NSC in the presence of Mr Majdi Al-Khalidi, and Mr Nabil Abu Rudeineh. https://t.co/5RdF5YBRKS— حسين الشيخ Hussein AlSheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) February 1, 2023
The US secretary of state reiterated opposition to settlements, the legalisation of outposts, demolitions and evictions, and disruptions to the historical status quo of the holy sites. Actions, he said, make the realising the goal of a two-state solution "more difficult to achieve, more distant."
"We'll continue to work to reopen our consulate in Jerusalem," he said, repeating a promise Joe Biden made when he first took office but didn't fulfil because of Israeli opposition.
Palestinians admit that a US push for a political solution to end the Israeli occupation has been deferred.
During his visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.
"I believe the American side feels unease about the recent deterioration on the ground and Israel's security policy and may even be embarrassed about it," Dr Ghassan Khatib, former PA minister, told The New Arab.
"This was clear when Blinken extended his condolences about the death of Palestinians," he added.
More than thirty Palestinians were killed in January during Israeli army raids on various cities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Seven Israelis were also killed and several injured during the same period in shooting attacks by Palestinians at illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
Antony Blinken promised the Palestinian Authority more economic support, and an additional US$50 million to the UN agency for the Palestine refugees, UNRWA.
📍#WestBank Our @BouloukosUN & @JulietteTouma visited #Jenin refugee camp following Israeli military operation last week.— UNRWA (@UNRWA) February 1, 2023
They met with #PalestineRefugee families impacted. Some, including children, spent hours trapped & in fear.#HearTheirVoices pic.twitter.com/4SNYJ2Sgn7
A telecommunication agreement was also reached to bring 4G technology to the occupied West Bank.
The emerging news about a US security team to smooth relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel followed a spike in violence and an announcement by the PA of an end to security coordination as a retaliation.
Many Palestinians are sceptical about the PA's announcement of cutting security cooperation with Israel.
The security coordination "stands and has not ceased," Esmat Mansour told TNA. Mansour is a former Palestinian prisoner who spent twenty years in Israeli jails.
Mansour rationalised that a "mere" declaration of stopping intelligence sharing with Israel would alarm Israeli and US officials, adding that "Bill Burns, the director of the CIA, pressured [the Palestinian Authority]" to not cut ties.
BREAKING— Ir Amim English (@IrAmimAlerts) February 1, 2023
3 demolitions took place this AM in EJ:
> 1 home demolition in al-Walajeh, home to 9 people
> 2 storage units - 1 in Sur Baher & 1 in Silwan
Building permits are nearly impossible for EJ residents to receive bc authorities rarely pass EJ zoning plans.
Former PA minister Ghassan Khatib concurs.
"There would be signs that the security coordination has stopped...we haven't seen them."
Khatib told TNA that the efforts by the US to bring calm may succeed in the short term. But, after that, violence will return because the Israeli government will surely return to it.
"The current ruling coalition demands it," he said.