Jordan will on Sunday host a “political-security” meeting between Israel and the Palestinians to try and restore calm to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after deadly violence, a Jordanian government official said.
The meeting to be held in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba will also be attended by United States and Egyptian representatives.
It aims at “building trust” between Israel and the Palestinians, the official told AFP on Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar were expected to attend on the Israeli side.
The talks will come after 11 Palestinians were killed and more than 80 wounded in a gun battle on Wednesday when Israeli troops raided the city of Nablus in the West Bank to arrest terror operatives. Palestinian terror groups said at least seven of those killed were their operatives. Another three were confirmed to have been civilians.
Intensifying unrest this year has sparked international concern and follows violence in 2022 which was the deadliest in the West Bank since UN tracking began. It also comes ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of particular sensitivity in Jerusalem.
“The political-security meeting is part of stepped-up ongoing efforts by Jordan in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and other parties to end unilateral measures [by Israel] and a security breakdown that could fuel more violence,” the Jordanian government official said.
The talks aim to reach “security and economic measures to ease the hardships of the Palestinian people,” the official added.
Channel 12 news reported that Israel had promised to Palestinian officials to limit entry into Palestinian towns in the near future in a bid to calm tensions.
Saudi Arabia’s Asharq News reported that the PA team was expected to demand the cessation of Israeli raids and settlement activity, while seeking to reach an agreement with Palestinian armed groups to keep the calm.
The summit is aimed at boosting Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and solidifying understandings that had been reached earlier this week regarding the steps that the two sides would take in order to de-escalate tensions, a Palestinian source familiar with the matter said.
A nearly year-long Israeli anti-terror offensive in the West Bank has left over 200 Palestinians dead — the vast majority in clashes with Israeli troops but some under more questionable circumstances — including 60 killed since the start of the year, straining already frayed ties. The campaign was launched last year to stem a rash of deadly attacks on Israelis: 31 were killed in 2022, and this year alone, 11 have been killed in Palestinian terror attacks in East Jerusalem — 10 civilians and one Border Police officer.
Ramallah is supposed to send a delegation led by PA Civil Affairs Minister and PLO Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh along with PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s chief diplomatic adviser Majdi Khaldi, the source said. US National Security Council Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf are slated to represent US President Joe Biden’s administration.
Al-Sheikh and Hanegbi have established a covert line of communication, with formal contacts between Jerusalem and Ramallah essentially frozen. Despite the hardline nature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, Abbas dispatched al-Sheikh to create a backchannel with Jerusalem that would be used to maintain contact and prevent further deteriorations of ties. The backchannel has largely withstood the ongoing period of violence, and al-Sheikh and Hanegbi have held several in-person and virtual meetings, a Palestinian official said on Monday.
Wednesday’s raid, the latest in a string of deadly military operations by Israel in the West Bank, came with Israel headed by a new coalition government regarded as the most right-wing in the country’s history.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took office again in December, traveled in January to Amman for a rare meeting with King Abdullah II. The monarch stressed “the need to maintain calm and cease all acts of violence,” the royal palace said at the time.
Abdullah also reaffirmed Jordan’s position in support of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians to end the decades-old conflict.
The conference is aimed at formalizing the Israeli agreement to hold off on authorizing additional settlement expansion for several months along with a similarly-timed commitment to ease IDF raids in Palestinian cities and demolitions or evictions of Palestinians from their homes. The Palestinian source said Ramallah is furious each of those commitments was breached this week and is demanding that the US press Israel to adhere to the agreement.