P.A. issues included in the Bennett-Biden meeting

August 30, 2021 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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The Palestinian issue was discussed during the Israeli Prime Minister’s meeting with the President of the United States in Washington last Friday.

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Avi Ohayon (GPO)

Prime Minister Bennett tried to place the Iranian issue at the centre of the White House agenda, keeping the Palestinian issue on the backburner. But, senior US officials made it clear that issues related to East Jerusalem were also brought up during the Oval Office meeting between Bennett and President Joe Biden.

After it concluded, Barbara Leaf, Head of the Middle East Department of the National Security Council in the Biden administration, spoke with Jewish organizations and updated them on the results of the meeting.

In response to questions on the issue, Leaf said that President Biden emphasized his desire to open the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem and that he also expressed opposition to evacuating Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. However, Leaf did not provide details about the opening date of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem.

Sources have made clear, however, that President Biden does not wish to put pressure on the Bennett government, especially as long as Israel’s new budget has yet to be passed by the Knesset.

According to sources in the Palestinian Authority, Barbara Leaf is the most senior U.S. official who deals with the Palestinian issue and is the one who manages the political contacts in their case. Leaf served in the Obama administration as an envoy for matters related to Iran and Iraq and also served as United States Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

In his remarks, the American president called on Israel to take steps that would lead to the improvement of the lives of the Palestinians.

Sources in the PA report that in the coming days, meetings will be held between representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian finance ministries, in order to ensure that a cash flow of $500 million annually will get into the PA’s coffers.

Various sources have revealed that talks are progressing well, and the parties are discussing a number of economic issues that have been pending between Israel and the PA for several years. Among other things, the Palestinians are demanding refunds for transit fees, reduction of fuel taxes and Israel’s collection and clearing fees.

Palestinians note that over the past 14 years, Israel has deducted $10 billion from the Palestinian budget for various reasons.

These matters come against the background of Israel’s intention to provide the Palestinian Authority with a loan or advance of NIS 800 million. But very senior Palestinian Authority officials now confirm that this is in fact “a route” designed to circumvent Israeli law on deductions by the Palestinian Authority.

According to these officials, Israel will continue to deduct the amount paid to the prisoners and their families, but at the same time will provide the authority with an advance of NIS 800 million and probably, according to a proposal from last year, on very favourable terms.

Prime Minister Bennett also heard from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, during the Oval Office meeting. Blinken made it clear that the US administration does not see eye to eye with Israel as per the country’s policies Vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Secretary Blinken expressed his opposition to any linkage of the return of Israeli prisoners, or the bodies of deceased soldiers held by Hamas, to the issue of rehabilitating the Gaza Strip with aid from the American government. Israel, however, insists that there will be such linkage.

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